President’s Report 2020-2021
As the President of the Soong Ching Ling Children’s Foundation of Canada, I would like to take this opportunity to report on the Foundation’s activities during 2020-21.
The outbreak of the global pandemic of COVID-19 in early March 2020 affected everyone’s lives, including our children and schools. Like many other schools, Britannia Community School switched to on-line classes, with students asked to stay at home. In order to adapt to this change, our Foundation quickly initiated the Tech Campaign, assisting the school to purchase 120 Chromebook laptop computers to ensure no children would be left behind due to this pandemic.
Our Foundation continued to support the Brite 8 Project at Britannia, as we have for several years now. This program focuses on providing 8th grade boys and girls with a strong sense of responsibility, belonging, and leadership skills through participation in various activities and through a mentorship program by older students who thereby develop leadership skills. This program has been shown to improve students’ high school experiences, resulting in fewer disciplinary problems and improved attendance. Because this year it was not possible to run the usual large group activities, including the overnight camp, the program was adjusted to be incorporated into class-time and to include small group in-person activities. The hope is that next year it will be possible to run the camp program for both the current and the future Grade 8 students.
Our foundation also continues to support programs at the Tupper Community Hub. As was true at Britannia, the usual after-school programs could not be run during the pandemic, so alternative ways were found to reach out to vulnerable students. A new Summer Outreach Project, run in association with the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House, engaged Tupper students in a combination of one-on-one meetings (often in association with weekly food deliveries), small-group activities at a local park, and social media contacts. The organizers of this program reported that: “Thanks to the funding provided by the Soong Ching Ling Children’s Foundation, the Tupper Community Schools Team was able to provide the only summer program in the Vancouver School Board District. Without this opportunity, dozens of families in the Tupper community would have struggled to have access to nutritious food, recreation activities, and supportive mentors for their children.”
With our ongoing support, the Outreach Program continued into the 2020-21 school year, focusing on improving students’ mental health and reaching out to the most at-risk students. When students returned to school for shortened days, in-class meetings were held with especially vulnerable students. When permitted by Public Health orders and the School Board, some after-school activities--an Art Program, Cooking Program, and a Sports Program—resumed. Although great flexibility was required in how the programs would be delivered given the changing health situation, throughout the school year program organizers found ways, with our support, to continue reaching out to students and meeting their needs.
It is now our fourth year supporting the Sunrise iRead Program in China. This program focuses its operations in poor rural areas building libraries and training teachers to use books to improve children’s critical thinking and love of reading. The Foundation’s support has allowed an expansion of the program to both the Dajing and Luzhuang Elementary Schools in Henan, China. Although adjustments had to be made to the program due to travel restrictions and school shutdowns during the pandemic, with the opening of schools, the program resumed. Over 300 students have benefited from this reading program, and the program has been so successful that Dajing Elementary hopes to expand it to younger grades during the coming year.
2020 was the seventh year that the Foundation has provided support to the Ciwei Migrant Children’s Choir project in Shenzhen, Guangdong. This program targets disadvantaged children of migrant workers, using music and group activities to build social skills and self-esteem, and improve behaviours. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of the pandemic, for much of 2020 activities such as the choir project were suspended, and only a few sessions were later held. While it has been a great project that has delivered countless joyful experiences to children over the years, the future of this project is currently uncertain.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, our Foundation has followed the Provincial Health Authority’s guidelines. Instead of hosting our annual fundraising event during 2020, we launched a fundraising campaign based on personal appeals. As a result, we successfully raised $27,513 by the end of 2020, leaving us with a healthy year-end balance of approximately $160,000 in our General Fund and allocated to various project funds. We commit that all these donations will be used to improve the education and welfare of children. On behalf of the Board, I express my thanks to the donors. Your care and love are what encourages us to do a better job on behalf of the children with each passing year.
During this year of remote work and operations, we took the opportunity to propose amendments to the current membership system and bylaws. These changes will allow for better organization of the membership and volunteers, permitting additional efficiencies in our operations, and allowing us to better focus our efforts on helping the children.
Even with the difficulties imposed upon us by the pandemic, the Foundation was still able over the past year to continue working toward our goal of improving the lives of children. I would like to thank our Board of Directors and volunteers for their continued hard work during this stressful period. I would also like to thank our generous donors and supporters. Without you, we would not have been able to make these many positive impacts on the lives of these children. The Foundation greatly appreciates your contributions, especially during these trying times.
Thanks for all you have done and continue to do!
For the children
During 2019-2020, the Foundation continued its support of several successful ongoing programs, while also initiating new ones to address real issues facing children.
In Canada, we continued to support programs at Britannia Secondary School and the Tupper Community Hub, schools which operate in challenging environments with many at-risk students. At Britannia, we provided $12,000 in 2019 to continue the very successful Brite 8 Program for students in Grade 8. This program has demonstrated its success in helping students with their entry into, and successful navigation of, the high school years. We also provided $5,000 to initiate a “Boys Who Dare” program, drawing on and continuing the experience of Britannia’s existing “Girls Who Leap” program. These two programs, open to any self-identified vulnerable youth, use mentoring models to foster community engagement and teach leadership skills. At the Tupper Hub, we provided $3,500 for the 2019-20 academic year to continue running the successful Nutrition and Cooking Program. We also for the first time provided $4,500 for a Girl’s Group, run jointly by Tupper School with local neighbourhood houses. This group, meeting weekly, helps girls who are at risk of engaging in negative behaviour or relationships to discuss sensitive subjects and receive guidance and counselling.
In China, we continued to support two successful programs. The first is the Ciwei Migrant Children’s Choir project in Shenzhen, Guangdong, which the Foundation has supported for the past six years. We continue to feel that this program provides a good way to build social skills and self-esteem among disadvantaged children of migrant workers by using music and group activities. While scaling back our funding to allow them to step up and find new sources of funds, we continued to support them at a level that would ensure continuation of the project. In 2019, the Foundation provided CNY50,000 (approximately CAD $10,000), and in 2020, CNY60,000 (CAD $11,000). The Sunrise iRead program received its second year of support from the Foundation. This program builds libraries and trains teachers from schools in poor rural areas to improve children’s critical thinking and build their love of reading and learning. Based on the success observed in the previous year, the Foundation decided to continue funding the Dajing Elementary School with CNY43,520 (approximately CAD $8,500), while also providing CNY36,010 (CAD $7,000) to permit expansion of the program to Lu Zhuang Elementary school, also in Henan Province.
In the first half of 2020, many things changed with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Schools were closed, and education shifted to on-line learning. It became impossible to continue our projects in a “business as usual” manner. The Foundation rose to the challenge, quickly stepping up to support students during these unprecedented and extraordinarily challenging times. We immediately contacted our partner schools in Vancouver to learn about their new needs and agreed to allow the shifting of unspent funds at Tupper Hub from the Cooking and Nutrition program to ensuring students’ food security at home. At Britannia School, where the largest problem was identified as widespread lack of access to necessary devices for on-line learning, the Foundation allowed the school to repurpose funds previously allocated to the Brite 8 program, and at the same time provided an additional $20,000 to purchase 120 chromebooks for distribution to students who needed them. $8,000 was also redirected to a joint undertaking of the Britannia Community Centre and the Vancouver Basketball Foundation to provide more chromebooks to Grade 7 students expected to enter Britannia School in the fall. Through its quick action and flexible response, the Foundation ensured that the educational and other basic needs of some of Vancouver’s most needy children would continue to be met.
In July 2019, I represented the Foundation in attending a 3-day forum in Shanghai titled “Renovation and Innovation of the Soong Ching Ling Spirit.” There I was able to meet with representatives of similar organizations from China and other parts of the world to share experiences in working to help children.
At the 2019 AGM, we said goodbye to retiring Board Member Bill Gooderham, while expressing gratitude for his long service. We are pleased and grateful that other Directors have agreed to continue serving on the Board.
The Foundation ended 2019 in a relatively healthy financial position, with approximately $85,582 in the General Fund, and another $33,674 allocated to Vancouver School Projects and $41,074 allocated to projects in China. Unfortunately, while we had hoped to mount a fundraising event during 2020 to replenish spent funds, with the outbreak of COVID-19, these plans have had to be put on hold.
Now more than ever, as we together face these extraordinary new challenges, we are grateful to our supporters as well as to all those who work to make a better life for the children.
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