More than 500 families supported by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria amid COVID-19 pandemic

More than 500 families supported by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria amid COVID-19 pandemic
WatchMore than 500 families supported by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria amid COVID-19 pandemic

As executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria, Rhonda Brown has been overseeing a huge shift in how the non-profit supports its families during the pandemic.

“I remember kind of early on, which really was only six weeks ago, but it feels so long ago, I just remember this feeling of … ‘we’re closing our office, but we have to open doors,’ to ensure the charity can continue its vital work,” says Brown.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria runs mentoring programs for families through southern Vancouver Island, including Sooke and Saltspring Island. They’re working with over 500 families and they have a team of about 450 volunteers.

“We’re an organization built on relationships – [now] in a time of social distancing!” Brown adds.

Those relationships, between a kind, supportive adult and a youth at risk, can truly change a life.

“We need to find new ways for these significant relationships to continue,” says Brown. “Because the families we’re working with are already stressed, many of them already living in poverty, almost all of them single parents” and all of them hugely impacted by the pandemic.

“We’ve been able to move to online platforms,” Brown explains. “Our staff are working hard on sharing information on how matches can continue to meet: online, by phone, they’re using mail and email, and the creativity that’s coming out is really absolutely incredible.”

In early April, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria also joined with other charities to help the city’s homeless population.

“We run a call centre and a social enterprise, and our social enterprise came to a screeching halt as a result of COVID-19. We decided that our call centre could be an asset at this time, and started to work with HeroWork and the United Way and Soap for Hope, and our call centre was calling out to the community for tents, and tarps and hygiene kits, and supplies for our most vulnerable populations.”

Brown also thanks those who donated to the Victoria Foundation’s Rapid Relief Fund. The organization received $105,000 from the fund, according to Brown.

“When you’re working so hard in the charity sector, it’s just this incredible vote of confidence, knowing that people recognize the importance of charity at this time. It’s just incredibly moving, and we can’t say thank you enough,” she said.

Brown doesn’t know what the future will look like, but the organization will do everything they can to continue their vital work.

“We recognize as a charity that we have difficult days ahead, and we are continuing to adapt and change. I’m super proud of the work that we do, and the number of children that are supported every week in this community by our mentors.”

Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria here.

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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