Local Love in desperate times
COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives across not only Greater Victoria but the world. For community organizations dedicated to helping the local community, it has meant scrambling to meet the demand of this new reality.
Many in our region could not have adequately prepared for how COVID-19 would affect them. The reality for many is that they do not have resources in place should they need to self-isolate. People who already faced barriers – issues like poverty, homelessness and social isolation – need more help than ever. Each day is a new challenge and the needs continue to evolve.
However, out of the crisis, we are seeing a lot of good emerge. Community groups are pivoting to provide new or modified programs. Neighbours are helping neighbours, volunteers are stepping up. Businesses are seeing a need and responding, like Accent Inns who partnered with the United Way to provide hotel rooms to frontline workers at no cost to them.
“The response we have seen from the community has been immense and, quite frankly, inspirational,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO at United Way. “I’m very proud of how our community has come together to support initiatives like our Local Love Campaign to help those that need it in our community.”
Governments at all levels are engaging with the United Way to make an impact. The Federal Government’s New Horizon Seniors Program Fund and Emergency Community Support Fund as well as the Province of British Columbia’s Safe Seniors, Strong Communities initiatives are three examples.
Just over a week after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic mid March, United Way launched the Local Love in a Global Crisis Fund, which to date has raised over $1.3 million to provide relief to the Greater Victoria community. View a timeline of the Local Love campaign in action here.
Local Love in a Global Crisis Fund focuses on the following:
- Help for seniors – ensure this precious population who is predisposed to isolation, is supported during this extraordinary time.
- Not-for-profit sector support – help assess, prioritize and deliver urgent needs across the social service sector and support agencies during the COVID19 pandemic
- Mental health support – enable crisis lines, virtual counselling and system navigation services like bc211, the free help service available by calling or texting 2-1-1 or visiting bc211.ca
When the need is the greatest, citizens, businesses and governments trusted the United Way to make a wise investment on their behalf to where the need is the greatest.
Emergency dollars continue to flow quickly and efficiently into the community to help many of our most vulnerable citizens.
Here’s a snapshot of five local programs funded by United Way.
Victoria Brain Injury Society – Music Therapy
People with brain injury experience depression and isolation. The Music therapy program with the Victoria Brain Injury Society (VBIS) allows clients to come together and know they are with other people struggling with the same feelings, which creates a wonderful community of acceptance and belonging.
“COVID-19 has affected our ability to play music live and in real-time together. Many members do not have the proper equipment or ability to manage the Zoom Application which requires several adjustments to be able to engage with each other and optimally share music together,” said Carmen Eisenhauer, Accredited Music Therapist with VBIS. “As a result, many have chosen – or out of no choice – do not attend waiting and hoping that meetings in person will begin again.”
Music therapy candidates require no formal training, just a love of music. VBIS provides a space to check-in each week and for clients to share how they are doing. During the sessions, clients are engaged and tapping into areas of their brain that are uninjured. They discover new or lost abilities such as rhythm and singing. This taps into neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to rewire and reorganize and they feel normal and part of something big.
Together, Galiano Eats
When COVID-19 hit, many already isolated and vulnerable populations were left even more so. For seniors like Carol that meant an inability to get all of the meals she needed.
“If it wasn’t for Together, Galiano Eats I would not have had food waiting for me when I came back from Ontario in March and was in self-isolation for two weeks,” said Carol, who has volunteered with the Galiano Club for many years. “Since then I have been able to order good, nutritious meals that are delivered once a week.”
Funding, made possible through United Way and the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, has enabled the Galiano Club to purchase food for both the frozen meals for seniors and for the food bank. Additionally, they will use funds to pay staff salaries, package the frozen meals and for necessities like propane for their kitchen.
Pacific Centre Family Services Association – Youth Talk
While many businesses and community programs have been hit hard financially during COVID-19, the effects have been different for YouthTalk.
Because they are an online service, their business model has not been interrupted however, the stress of a global pandemic has made for a large increase in people who need their help.
“I have anxiety and depression, and both can be pretty powerful at times. It’s extremely difficult where I live to access mental health services, and to be honest, going in person is really difficult. I’m kind of awkward and talking about such personal things directly to another human is scary as hell,” said a YouthTalk participant who has remained anonymous for privacy reasons. “To be able to access a service like YouthTalk, where I can email, or directly chat in if I really need it, has helped me combat some of the issues I have to deal with on a daily basis. I don’t know what I’d do, at this time in my life, without them.”
Pacific Training Centre for the Blind
For students like Bruce, COVID-19 has forced upon them isolation in a world that can already feel isolating due to limited opportunity for community participation, negative attitudes in society about blindness and the limited availability of independence skills training.
The Pacific Training Centre for the Blind (PTCB) is the only centre in Canada that offers empowering, intensive blindness skills training for blind people.
“The learning Braille program has been most impactful,” said Bruce, who is both legally blind and hard of hearing. “In the beginning, it was done one-on-one with the teacher but now due to COVID-19 the classes are done through messaging on an iPhone and an iPad…This technology classroom setup is working really well.”
When COVID-19 hit, local long-term care facilities were forced to close to outside visitors to prevent the spread of the virus. This meant that residents were suddenly cut off from family visitations and from group therapy programs that help them maintain their physical strength and mental well-being.
As a result of funding from United Way and the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, Eldercare was able to purchase cell phones and tablet computers to keep 700 residents at five local long-term care facilities connected with their families through phone chats and video calls, and able to access online entertainment and activities, during the pandemic.