April 29, 2020
Dear Donors and Supporters,
With our COVID-19 response plans now in place, the staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria wanted to let you, our donors and supporters, know that we are committed to continuing our work and have found new ways to produce life-changing, developmental relationships that foster resilience in the face of adversity. We have pivoted and adapted our program delivery so that our children and youth continue to receive support during this difficult time.
As you know, the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria and Area is to enable life-changing mentoring relationships that ignite the power and potential of young people facing adversity who need additional positive adult support systems. This pandemic makes it critical to have trusted adults in place as our children and their families are under more stress than usual and, for many of our children, their mentor is a crucial connection especially when home is not always a safe place.
Of the 585 children and youth served over the last twelve months, 36% are living with a mental health issue in the home (either their own or a family member’s); 29% have been previously abused; 17% have conflict and/or violence in the household; 10% have already had involvement with the Ministry of Children and Family Development; and 6% didn’t have permanent housing to begin with.
While our office is closed to the public, most of our mentoring programs continue to run remotely; and we have developed COVID-19 protocols to meet public health and safety requirements. Families who need mentors for their children are still submitting applications and we are recruiting new mentors to meet that demand. Our community-based matches connect each week through online platforms and staff members host family meetings and conduct safety check-ins with matches virtually. We are working with our partner schools to deliver the Go Girls! program online so middle school students have the mental health support they need. While many of our in-school matches have closed early, some continue to have a weekly chat or play online games, with permission and support from their parent(s)/guardian(s).
As we adapt to each new development, we also face the reality that COVID-19 has disrupted our funding streams. Fundraising events that required the gathering of people have been cancelled, and our social enterprise that collects and sells used clothing came to a halt due to public health safety concerns. While we closed our offices to the public, we opened doors in the community working in collaboration with other charities to create the Neighbourhood Response Team. We are leveraging our call center to collect essential supplies for those struggling with poverty and homelessness. We are, after all, in this together.
We are all learning through this pandemic and are being challenged to grow in our efforts to respond to the increasing needs of our community. The value of our work has never been more evident. It seems that social distancing has helped us all appreciate the importance of relationships, human caring, and compassion. Our mentors have shared these gifts with children in this community for years and in these difficult times, they remain available, listening, playing, and teaching through weekly visits by phone, mail, or online.
I would like to thank you for your donation over the past year. Your support has had an impact and your generosity moving forward will help children and families cope as we manage the months ahead together.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria