From the “I Have A Dream” Foundation – New York Affiliate: As the coronavirus shut down NYC in March 2020, our in-person programming became extremely limited due to safety concerns. However, it was at that critical time that our staff really went to work. Reaching out to the IHDF Dreamers and their families, we began to assess issues such as employment status, food security, and family health.
Many of our families had lost their main source of income and some Dreamers contracted coronavirus themselves and/or dealt with the loss of loved ones due to the disease. At the height of the crisis in NYC our staff were busy gathering resources and making referrals to provide relief wherever possible.
As it became clear that the COVID crisis would extend into the spring and summer, IHDF staff set up zoom check-ins with Dreamers to provide social and emotional support as well as academic assistance. Staff used creative means such as online video games to help provide a comfortable environment to engage Dreamers in conversations around difficult topics. And as our 8th grade Dreamers graduated middle school with little other fanfare, we used PPE and social distancing to meet with those Dreamers outdoors and celebrate their accomplishment.
When possible, IHDF has extended our support to the larger community. Through our strong partnership with PS/MS 7 in East Harlem, laptops were provided on loan to help ensure that students have the resources needed for virtual learning. Additionally, IHDF facilitated a donation from IXL Learning to provide online tutoring services free of charge to over 500 students.
The COVID crisis will have lasting impacts for all of us and the “I Have A Dream” Foundation is committed to continuing to provide high quality services through this incredibly challenging time. To that end, we are in the process of instituting two new aspects of programming: the IHDF Food Security Initiative and the the IHDF Social Work Program. Together, these two new services will help ensure that each Dreamer has access to counseling services to help cope with COVID-related trauma and that their families have the resources needed to provide healthy meals on a regular basis.
During this time of uncertainty, each of our interactions with Dreamers provides a reminder of what a privilege it is to work with so many amazing young people and their families. Moreover, as an organization we cannot put into words the enormity of gratitude to our staff for the work that they have done to maintain relationships and provide crucial services throughout 2020.