Partnering with community organizations has always been prominent at the Vancouver School District to support students and their families. Although one of the biggest changes during the COVID-19 pandemic is the requirement to stay physically apart, this has led to organizations coming together virtually to make a difference in the lives of children in the District.
Alongside District-funded activities, access to food and technology are just two ways community partners are showing support.
Prior to the suspension of in-class instruction, Backpack Buddies was handing out thousands of bags of food per month across B.C. including in Vancouver for families as weekend supplies. Now, the non-profit is delivering emergency food to families in need topped up with extra meals and snacks, whole foods like pasta and rice, and other kitchen-cupboard essentials.
Fresh Roots and Growing Chefs! teamed up to provide a program that taught students to grow and prepare food for themselves and their peers. The organizations have now shifted their approach to making meals available to families – including those in need. They are distributing 5,500 chef-prepared meals through delivery or pick-up twice a week to 260 families.
Access to technology has also been top of mind for many.
FuturePLAY is a sustainable and scalable educational program being developed at the District aimed at fostering digital and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Design, and Mathematics) literacy among students in grades 4-7. The goal of the program is to help prepare students for secondary and post-secondary education, as well as the technology-enabled workforce of the future.The program has now loaned more than 100 iPads and laptops combined to Vancouver students.
Soong Ching Ling Children’s Foundation of Canada, Rotary Club of Vancouver (via Adopt-A-School Project from Vancouver Sun Children’s Fund Society), and Vancouver Basketball Foundation are three organizations with the aim to make sure each student at Britannia Secondary has access to the technology they need during this time. They have provided funding towards 150 Chromebooks for students in need at the school. Alec MacInnes, principal at Britannia Secondary says, “All three organizations are champions in our Britannia community – long-time supporters of our families in the downtown eastside and Grandview Woodlands neighbourhoods. They were the first to reach out directly and ask what our gaps were aside from immediate food security needs.”
These initiatives highlight the importance of, together with the District, supporting children and their families during these challenging times.