Connection during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many inequities, including the huge gap between those who have access to computers at home and those who do not. Programs and services are online, but not everyone has an Internet connection or a computer.
Everything from grocery deliveries to government support applications are online now and for the foreseeable future. This makes lack of technology even more of a barrier today than it ever was. Here are three examples of how the Atlantic Compassion Fund and our donors’ local love provided much-needed connection to people right here in Halifax:
The programs at Chebucto Links enable seniors in Halifax to maintain active, healthy and social lifestyles. Many members have credited the programs with saving their lives, keeping social isolation at bay. Public health measures as a result of COVID-19 put an end to all of Chebucto Links’ fun, engaging activities. So, like most community-based programming, they’ve moved online. But as a senior, it can be daunting to learn how to access things in this new, virtual world. Donations to United Way’s Atlantic Compassion Fund provided the cost of a part-time IT technician for six weeks, to support seniors and program deliverers. Chebucto Links now has a goal to find a partner to run a designated, safe “IT Help Desk” for seniors.
Halifax Refugee Clinic
This small but mighty team continues to support the growing needs of refugee claimants and migrant individuals and families. They are an extremely marginalized community. Often their clients are not eligible for the government’s COVID-19 supports for a variety of reasons. Many lack work permits or social insurance numbers. The circumstances of this pandemic are reinforcing barriers and making difficult situations even worse for this community.
The team at the Halifax Refugee Clinic identified 12 families who were particularly struggling due to a lack of technology. Their request was simple: they needed 12 refurbished laptops, and two months of Internet bill coverage for each household. Atlantic Compassion Fund donors re-connected these families to the classes, programs and workshops offered through the Halifax Refugee Clinic as well as to schools, teachers, and family members in other countries.
One of the programs run out of this Spryfield neighbourhood hub is called Pathways to Education. It’s a national program that supports youth education, helping students reach high school graduation. When schools closed in March, program staff provided virtual support to 300 families. One student, who lives with a grandparent, was using all of their cellphone data to do their schoolwork because there was no Internet at home. This left them with little to no data for other activities. They weren’t able to participate in any other virtual programming offered by Chebucto Connections or even connect with friends. Unfortunately, this student is not the only one in a situation like this. Atlantic Compassion Fund donors helped to cover Internet bills so that students in Spryfield wouldn’t be left behind — academically or socially.