We have presented a $26,608 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to SOS Children’s Village BC to support foster children, youth, and families during the presence of COVID-19 in our communities and alleviate its negative impacts on their lives. This funding is being used to sustain SOS Children’s Village youth workers and clinical personnel as well as acquire protective and technological equipment, which will ensure that the youth and children are living in stable conditions that will help them emerge well from this pandemic.
(Left) Farah Collier, (Right) Michelle Bernard
SOS Children's Village BC is a community organization, founded in 1986 to help children in the foster care system and reduce the move from household to household and give them a place to call home. The only Canadian SOS Village is located in Surrey, BC on 2.5 acres of land with 5 homes and 5 suites where the foster families and youth in transition are living. The organization's youth program teams work closely with foster children and youth aging out of care by doing regular weekly/biweekly checkups, to ensure that they are moving towards their original plans of independence and any obstacles they face are handled. As many of SOS Children’s Village’s youth and children are Indigenous, the organization partners with Seabird Island Band to ensure that their reconciliation process is moving according to plan and the SOS programs/ activities are relevant and suitable to their Indigenous children. The Village also provides transition programs such as the Transition to Adulthood program, in which youth determine their plans for their lives including education, employment and living status.
Before the pandemic, the Village had a consistent routine. The village had an open door policy wherein the youth and caregivers could come and go as they pleased. They could talk to each other and receive mental health support as well as assistance for issues such as solving technical or household issues.
“Since the pandemic, a lot has changed for these kids and their families. The kids had to learn about wearing masks and social distancing from each other,” said Farah Collier, Village Director, SOS Children’s Village. “This has been quite hard for them as we have had a three-year-old and a nineteen-year-old who are family and are used to being part of each other’s life before the pandemic. Now to tell them to distance themselves from each other is very strange and difficult.”
Ever since the pandemic, staff and caregivers have had to think outside the box to come up with more activities that help the children stay happy, as normally the kids would be going to school, hanging out with their friends, families and have family camping trips. The children are resilient about the process of social distancing and have come up with their own creative ways to interact with each other. The caregivers had to learn how to work outside of their normal framework and still be able to provide the love and support that kids need even more so than before. Recently, the staff dressed in costumes such as a Dinosaur and Santa Claus, these kinds of moments and opportunities have helped in keeping the children amused.
(Left to Right) Linda Annis, Michelle Bernard, Christine Buttkus, Farah Collier
Michelle Bernard, Director of Development, SOS Children’s Village BC stated, “ The funding that we received from SurreyCares was instrumental in obtaining Personal Protective Equipment such as masks, gloves and sanitizer for staff and youth. It also assisted us with procuring digital technology such as laptops and tablets for the youth to help them with their education and giving them the opportunity to connect with others. This technology also supports caregivers who have kids at home more due to the pandemic, especially since schooling has turned into homeschooling for many. I want to thank SurreyCares and the Government of Canada for providing this funding to SOS Children’s Village. It has made a great impact on our children and youth.”
In addition to the technological means for the proper education of the children, there is a staff member present who has educator experience and has been helping the children with their education. After COVID, the workload of all the caregivers and staff members has increased drastically. SOS was also able to hire a full-time clinician which has been helpful for both the youth and caregivers. The clinician support has been especially beneficial since some of the youth would have transitioned into adulthood and would have left the village under normal circumstances. These youth have returned, as this place is the only home they have known and in times of dire need, they can rely on their family (at SOS).
This grant is made possible through the Government of Canada's $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares in its first round and now, over $575,000 in the second round.
“SureyCares Community Foundation is grateful to be able to support SOS Children’s Village. The youth in our community, especially those in foster care are quite vulnerable and face a lot of hardships mentally and emotionally. The risks for transitioning youth have increased by several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, providing them with the tools to keep themselves and their families safe while helping them continue their education is important,” expressed Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation.
Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to the Surrey Community Relief Fund. In partnership with the Surrey Now-Leader, Surrey Board of Trade and The Saheli Foundation, the goal is to raise $500,000 to support the most vulnerable populations in Surrey.
To learn more about SOS Children’s village BC, visit their website: https://www.sosbc.org/