Achieve More Together! That was the theme we set at the start of the year – it spoke to how much more can be achieved when we share our strengths. 2020 certainly wasn’t a year that anyone expected, but it brought into focus just how important our work is and that sharing our strengths is the key to achieving more!
At Moorelands Kids, we know that children and youth experiencing financial challenges already face many barriers that other kids don’t. For 109 years, our organization has been working to bridge this opportunity gap by creating strong, nurturing community and skill-building experiences that give those children the tools, skills and resiliency they need to overcome the barriers to success.
The pandemic has deepened the already existing inequity in our city and intensified the challenges kids face. A study by Children’s Mental Health Ontario revealed that two-thirds of youth reported their mental health had worsened since the pandemic, and 45% of parents with young children report their mental health has declined.
But the good news is, in a year of so much turmoil, YOU and Moorelands Kids were there to meet the changing needs of some of the most vulnerable children in our community. Because of you, we were able to provide kids with connection, engaging interactive experiences and mentorship – elements that are critical to the mental health, resiliency and wellbeing of our children and youth.
Change isn’t easy. Moorelands Kids’ model relied on face-to-face program delivery, but being there for our families, and continuing to serve Toronto kids, is non-negotiable. Schools announced a COVID lockout March 13th, 2020. We sprang into action, reaching out to all participants. Assessing immediate needs and access to technology, we switched to the development and execution of virtual program delivery as a way to keep kids safe, connected and growing. Our virtual programs were up and running by March 30th. We continued to work with school and community partners, providing our families with tech needs and emergency supports of food and new channels to share information around local health, food banks, and wage supports.
When the province cancelled all overnight camps for the summer, we were ready. We took all that we learned in the virtual spring programs to create an amazing online summer camp experience for our campers. Moorelands online camp set real physical challenges, created a safe and structured virtual space for real-time peer interactions, and supported kids with meaningful leadership and life-skills training. We declared 2020 the SEND CAMP to KIDS year and put together camper kits to support the activities, crafts and environmental projects our campers would do. Every online camper got a kit; no child would miss out because they couldn’t afford to participate. At camp, staff created programs in the morning, mentored live interactions of cabin groups in the afternoon, played online interactive games with families and children in the evening, spent countless hours completing maintenance tasks and went long into the night to edit videos for the following day.
In September, our robust online after-school programs, BLAST, LED and VITAL, were there to support kids through the second wave of COVID lockdowns. Again program kits were sent out to every BLAST and LED child – and our participants took what they learned to give back to their community, spreading laughter, positivity and encouragement to others through projects and videos as part of #GivingTuesday 2020.
As I reflect on all that happened, I’m indeed so proud of what we’ve achieved together by sharing our strengths.
Transforming to meet children’s needs in an online space had a steep learning curve and it was not without its challenges. Staff had to adapt and adjust to running programs without the reward and energy of seeing kids in-person. Many of us are now all too familiar with the feeling of Zoom fatigue! Most of our young part-time staff had their contracts cancelled as we weren’t able to be in our program spaces. What was achieved happened with a skeleton core team of 30% of the staffing it takes to run in a normal year.
Our staff rose to the challenge and devised new and exciting ways to engage with the kids. We created 311 hours of high-quality video programming and online interactive meet-ups using social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. We discovered new opportunities to connect with our camper families year-round.
Looking forward to camp 2021, we anticipate a mandated reduction of camp spaces permitted, which will increase the cost of camp per camper. We know our families are disproportionally affected by positive COVID results. We anticipate that some will not yet be ready or able to meet in-person. Until all our children are welcomed back to in-person programs – projected for 2022 – we will continue to deliver services both ways. But, the additional burdens caused by programming in both ways are not all negative. I look forward to telling you more about that in our Annual Meeting on April 21st, at 5:30pm.
In the following pages, you will see the transformative impact of what we achieved together. Despite all the challenges we faced as a community, our camp families reported that 99% felt supported and connected because of our online programs. None of this would be possible without you, our staff, board members, volunteers, and community partners. In a year when we have all had our lives turned upside down, you stayed constant and committed.
Thank you for sharing your strengths and gifts with Moorelands Kids and the children we serve. We have
Achieved More Together!
Executive Director, Moorelands Kids
Please donate to send kids to Moorelands Camp this summer!
2021 is a hard year for many of our families. I believe it is a challenging year for many of you. It will be a hard year for us, too, as the one-time Government supports that made last year’s results possible stop. With all of the stresses caused by Covid-19 and the regular strains of living in poverty, children need the kind of supportive environment Moorelands Camp provides.