How we are supporting clients this holiday season
This holiday season is quickly proving to be a difficult time for many, but for our immigrant and refugee clients and their communities, the challenges are particularly pronounced. Luckily, we’ve had ‘all hands on deck’ – with staff, volunteers, partners, and donors all pitching in to to help. Together, we’ve worked hard to address our clients’ most urgent needs (such as medical care, COVID-19 booster shots and warm clothing) and at the same time, we’ve brought joy, laughter and much needed opportunities for connecting and celebrating through our special holiday events.
Please check out our digital scrapbook below to see some of the ways we’ve been helping our clients through the holidays.
Throughout the pandemic, Access Alliance has kept clients and community health and safety as our top priority. This winter we led and collaborated on a variety of vaccine engagement initiatives which aimed to address the multiple barriers people may face to getting the COVID-19 vaccine (through door-to-door visits by Ambassadors and mobile vaccination clinics). In response to the highly infectious Omicron variant, our Community Health Workers and volunteer Ambassadors worked extra hard before and during the holiday season to get vaccine shots including the booster into arms of those who are particularly vulnerable in our communities.
Having learned some important lessons supporting the Syrian refugee influx in 2015, Access Alliance was able to respond quickly to the thousands of Afghan refugees who have arrived in Toronto since October. Working with partners, we established a primary care clinic in one of the Afghan refugee hotels, and staff have been working tirelessly to address their wide range of health care needs.
Working with community partners, we secured generous donations in the form of personal hygiene products and warm (cute!) winter clothing. Despite the overwhelming volume of items, staff and volunteers showed incredible coordination to distribute them to hundreds of Afghan refugees and their families across all three refugee hotels in Toronto.
Over 600 clients, neighbours, and community members came out in December for some hot drinks and friendly conversation at our holiday events. Staff organized a ‘market style’ set up,where people took part in fun activities (like cookie decorating and snow globe crafts), and could grab a hot meal and a food hamper to take home.
More snaps from behind the scenes at the AccessPoint on Jane holiday market event. Left – seniors taking part in some holiday crafts; Right – our incredible volunteer team preparing delicious hot meals for clients and community members, many of whom face daily food insecurity.
Despite the challenging times, people opened their hearts and donated generously to our annual Holiday Hamper event (held at AccessPoint on Danforth). All told, we raised over $70,000 (in-kind, adopt-a-family, and cash donations) which saw our community space FILLED with toys and other gifts, and reached 119 families in need!
Some of our Hijabs and Helmets bike program participants (and a program staff) seriously lucked out this year, and got free tickets to go see a Raptors game! It’s hard to think of a better way to boost morale and spirits during these cold winter months!
And that wraps up our year! Access Alliance wishes you a warm, safe, and happy holiday season and wonderful year ahead.
But first, a HUGE thank you to our donors, partners, volunteers, and staff!
These initiatives would have been impossible without the incredible support from our donors, our partner agencies, dozens of volunteers, and of course our extraordinarily dedicated staff across all sites.
Afghan Refugee Response:
- RefugeeAid UofT (winter clothing drive)
- Proctor & Gamble, Global Medic (personal hygiene/household essentials donations)
- Afghan Refugee Response, Muslim Children’s Aid & Support Services (MCASS), Little Things Canada, Matthew House, and the Syrian Canadian Foundation (Hygiene Care Kits and household essential donations)
Holiday Hampers donors are a great many, but to mention just a few:
- The Waugh Family Foundation
- Carolyn Griffis and her amazing volunteer team
- Agnostic Inc.
- Craft Development Corp.
- Mike Lukenda
- Vinchala Bala
- Nationwide Appraisal Services
Meals and holiday food hampers:
- Community Food Centres Canada
- Daily Bread Food Bank
- United Way Greater Toronto
- Agriculture Agri Food Canada
- FoodShare Toronto
A special thank you to MLSE Foundation for the donation of Raptors tickets!
Last but not least, we thank the Settlement service colleagues at COSTI, our partner in the temporary reception centers in the hotels, for helping us distribute these donations.