Normally, Dream Brokers rely on the school atmosphere to consult with students and caregivers one-on-one while connecting kids to after-school sport, culture and recreation programs. That all changed when COVID-19 restrictions closed schools and brought programs to a standstill in March 2020.
“I know how important school is for the communities that we work in. It’s a definite life line and with so much uncertainty in March, I was concerned for the students and caregivers we work with because they were going to be impacted the most,” said Stacey Laing, a Dream Broker based out of Albert Community School in Regina explained.
“Some caregivers may not have access to technology that allows the students to stay connected or shift their current activities to online,” added Laura Dyck, a Dream Broker in Saskatoon who works with both St. Frances School and St. Michael Community School.
With those challenges in mind, the Dream Brokers did some brainstorming and came up with an innovative way to continue offering (and even diversify) programming for participants: activity kits.
Activity kits production & community impact
The needs differed across the Dream Brokers programs in the province, and so the teams set about designing kits that best served communities. This required assistance from local business and groups.
Following a call out on social media, 19 partnerships and over 40 donors came to the aid of Dream Brokers in Regina, which provided the program the ability to deliver a kit once a week for 12 weeks to participants while school was closed. The kits contained a sport, recreation/physical activity, and culture theme with activities provided by a sponsor, a healthy snack and a mental health component created by an educational psychologist.
Beginning in March, over 500 kits were produced and delivered, benefitting over 200 children who attended the Albert and Kitchener community schools in North Central Regina. Since school started in September, the kits continue to be created, but now on a more personal basis and at a much lower delivery rate, largely due to the fact some sport and culture activities have been permitted under certain restrictions.
The art of the Dream Brokers program is that they are tailored to the specific needs of each school. Dyck says that in her schools, there is typically a huge interest in sport, but with COVID-19 restricting those physical activity programs, she had found there was an increased interest for art and culture activities.
“We wanted to find a way stay connected to the kids and their caregivers during this time, through our partnerships, generous donations from the community and private donors we have been able to do that,” she explained.
Since March, the Saskatoon Dream Brokers have ensured participants and their caregivers had access to over 1,000 activity kits which included food hampers, gift cards, and activity items to over 500 families in the community.
“This was a huge collaboration between community partners and individual donors,” stated Dyck.
The Saskatoon Dream Brokers are continuing the trend of providing activity kits to homes but now with more targeted activity-based programming.
A successful endeavour
The outpouring of help from donors has been overwhelming to Dream Brokers across the province. From teachers to community members, and various business and individual sponsors, the generosity has come in abundance, enabling the Dream Brokers to find solutions to the barriers posed by the pandemic.
For the Dream Broker kids and their caregivers, these activity kits have had a substantial benefit. Providing a means for not only the children to be involved in healthy activities, but also for the caregivers to play an active role in those activities.
“Caregivers would be waiting in the window and the kids would be waiting at the door; excited to see what’s in the kit,” described Laing. “I would walk up to the house and see the activities in the window or on the sidewalk. It was cool to see the result of the kits and see that they’re being utilized in the way they were meant to be.”
The kits also provided flexibility for the Dream Brokers to allow a creative connection with the participants and caregivers. With some caregivers expressing concern of having children attending sports or culture activities during a pandemic, some have opted to choose having these kits instead of the risk of attending in-person activities. This type of reach enables the Dream Brokers to continue to maintain the relationship they have created with the children and their caregivers throughout the year.
“These kits have enabled us to continue to stay connected with students and their caregivers in a positive way,” said Dyck.