Dedicated delivery


Winnipeg charities demonstrate innovation and creativity during pandemic.

Winnipeg’s charitable sector is driven by a passion the Coronavirus cannot kill. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, charities in Winnipeg have come up with creative ways to serve clients and offer programs and services while maintaining physical distancing requirements.

According to Winnipeg Foundation-initiated surveys, most charities have altered programming to serve pressing needs or offer alternate ways to stay connected, despite having experienced a loss of revenue and staffing adjustments. Learn more on page 13. Here are just a few examples of some of the incredible work carried out during the pandemic.

Just breathe

(Photo above and at the top of the page) Images from PTE’s “INHALE/EXHALE – 90 Seconds to Breathe.” Photos by Hazel Venzon, courtesy of PTE.

When Thomas Morgan Jones noticed his colleagues, friends, and family were under increased stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, he and his team at Prairie Theatre Exchange decided to try to help remind everyone to just breathe.

Jones, Artistic Director of PTE, and team launched “INHALE/EXHALE – 90 Seconds to Breathe” which combines still photography of an isolated Winnipeg, along with 90 second musical compositions, in the hopes that viewers will slow down, listen, relax, and take a deep breath.

“There are artists all over the country doing brilliant things with technology, live streaming, all sorts of things,” Jones says. “We’ve been doing things like sending plays to audience members to read, sending notes, videos.”

INHALE/EXHALE was made to address the increased anxiety, fear, loneliness and other mental health stressors that social isolation causes, to inspire viewers to meditate and relax.

Jones and his team plan to continue delivering innovative digital content and finding ways of connecting with their audience, until PTE is able to open its doors to live performances again.

“The health and safety of the performers, the volunteers, our staff, and the audience is paramount,” Jones says. “But I think fundamentally, when I think about Prairie Theatre Exchange as a company, we’re about being in the room with people. It’s about that kind of experience.”

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Sneak peek

What’s the next best thing to visiting the zoo in person? Learning about the animals from the comfort of your home during live Creature Features.

While the Assiniboine Park Zoo was closed due to the pandemic, it wanted to maintain a connection with the community, explains Lindsay Hughes, Digital and Social Media Coordinator with Assiniboine Park Conservancy, which runs the zoo. It introduced the Creature Features, which are delivered via Facebook Live, so people could see the animals and learn more about them during presentations by the zoo’s animal care team.

“Education is very important to us at Assiniboine Park Conservancy, and this has provided us an opportunity to deliver educational content to people not only in our surrounding community, but around the world. It’s also given us the opportunity to take people behind the scenes at the zoo, which is not possible during a regular visit or Zoo Chat,” Hughes says.

The educational component has been welcomed by many.

“The feedback has been extremely positive. We’ve heard from many teachers and parents that the Creature Features have been incorporated into their home learning plans, which has been very rewarding.”

Some of the most popular creatures featured have included the meerkats, harbour seals, skunks, polar bears and red pandas. The zoo is looking forward to continuing with online content in the future, Hughes says.

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Tailored support

Recognizing the unique needs of their neighbourhood, the Elmwood Community Resource Centre has gone both high and low tech to deliver client supports during the pandemic.

The charity offered dedicated telephone lines focused on basic needs, counselling and youth supports. It utilized online technology to maintain connections, share information, deliver support groups, and host live workshops. And recognizing that many community members do not have access to technology, it created newsletters to ensure no one was left out.

“ECRC recognized that needs of the community were in fact rising and responded to attempt to meet [them] by adapting services to maintain community engagement, especially in consideration of a potential rise in domestic or family violence,” says Executive Director Nina Condo.

Condo recognizes the innovativeness and commitment of ECRC’s staff allowed programming to continue.

“[Staff’s] continued ability to respond to the needs of their community while also dealing with the effects of this pandemic on their own lives has been amazing,” Condo says. “We have been so fortunate to have amazing community members and Board of Directors who selflessly went grocery shopping on a weekly basis or continuously delivered food hampers to families.”

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Determined to succeed

Peaceful Village staff practice physical distancing during an outdoor visit. Photo courtesy of Peaceful Village.

For newcomer youth who have already experienced so much in their young lives, the COVID-19 pandemic is yet another challenge. These young people often face language barriers, may not have access to technology, and can experience the added the responsibility of caring for younger siblings and translating for parents.

“Despite all of these tremendous challenges, it has been beautiful to witness the resiliency and sheer determination of youth to overcome any educational obstacles,” says Daniel Swaka, Executive Director of Peaceful Village.

Peaceful Village is an after-school program for newcomer youth and their families, facilitated by Manitoba School Improvement Program. It generally operates six sites, including Gordon Bell High School, Glenlawn Collegiate, and Acadia Junior High. While Peaceful Village has closed physical locations, activities continue remotely and include mental health, academic, technology, nutritional, social and employment supports.

In addition, Peaceful Village has supported its graduating students with sessions in partnership with post-secondary institutions including University of Winnipeg, University of Manitoba, Red River College and Manitoba Student Aid.

“For many of our youth, they may be the first in their family to attend post-secondary in Canada. Therefore, we are trying to address the informational gaps that may exist such as how to apply for university, what programs are offered and the options for financing.”

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This story is featured in the Spring 2020 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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