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In another pandemic year, meeting the challenges

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In another pandemic year, meeting the challenges

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When the pandemic forced the temporary closure of a Brooklyn program offering activities and services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the loss for clients was difficult.

The program kept customers engaged for a few months through video conferencing and telephone services. When the leaders prepared to invite a small group of community empowerment participants in person for the whole day, they wanted to keep them safe.

“It was a huge challenge, and we had to really get creative,” said La’Kisha Alvarado, the program director.

To meet social distancing requirements, the program, which is part of Brooklyn Community Services, has had to reduce the number of participants carried on each of the three buses it uses and make additional trips as needed. It offset the costs with money from the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, which counts Brooklyn Community Services as one of its nine recipient agencies.

Ms Alvarado said safety protocols help reassure families about the health of their loved ones and that clients are delighted to see each other and see staff again in person.

“They were more than happy to come back,” Ms. Alvarado said.

This year, some beneficiary organizations have also turned their attention to the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. In February, one of those groups, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, offered a pop-up vaccination event at the Betances Houses. in partnership with the Bronx Rising Initiative and the Morris Heights Health Center.

Since then, the organization has continued to help with pop-up vaccination sites throughout the city, primarily at affordable housing sites linked to Catholic charities and local parishes. Catholic Charities works with the Community Healthcare Network, which secures and distributes vaccines. Richard Espinal, director of housing support services and parish and community engagement, oversaw the effort.

“I’m almost like the carnival barker, letting people know that we are here and that they can come and get vaccinated,” Espinal said.

Much of her job is answering questions and encouraging people to get vaccinated.

“We are dealing with a community and a population that have many underlying health issues,” he said. Due to disparities in health care, he tries to be there to reassure New Yorkers.

Save the Children, another recipient agency, is also working to boost immunizations in New York City. Through a partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals, the organization has provided testing and vaccine distribution throughout the city.

And UJA-Federation of New York, which is also supported by the Neediest Cases Fund, has organized pop-up vaccination clinics and helped match social service agencies, schools, and community centers with vaccine providers. for appointments, resulting in thousands of vaccination appointments, some for Holocaust survivors. The UJA-Federation has also awarded grants to organizations to promote vaccine education and increase access, especially in minority communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

At Coney Island, Brooklyn Community Services also works to improve equity and vaccine awareness by answering questions outside its community centers and at train stations, where staff members hand out leaflets and help people get started. register to be vaccinated.

Around the world, the International Rescue Committee, another recipient agency, is working to protect people in refugee camps from Covid-19.

“The most important thing is that we really need to meet people where they are,” said Mesfin Teklu Tessema, senior technical director and head of the organization’s health department. “The way to do it is to raise awareness, to break down the language barrier that exists, to make information easily understandable. “

With financial support from the Neediest Cases Fund, the organization has worked to ensure that health workers in Bidi Bidi refugee camp in northern Uganda have adequate personal protective equipment. The money was also used to provide vaccines to elderly Rohingya refugees in remote areas of Cox’s Bazar camp in Bangladesh.

To help children feel the pressure of the pandemic, First Book, another recipient agency of the Neediest Cases Fund, relied on its social and emotional learning materials.

First Book, which provides free and inexpensive books to children in need, helped Rebecca Brinkman when much of her third-grade class returned to school in person in March.

One of the first things Ms. Brinkman noticed was how anxious her students were. Learning online had been difficult, especially because many of its students did not have reliable access to the Internet. Back in class, his students told him that they were afraid to be there and that they were nervous that they were late.

“Honestly, I felt like I was in an alternate reality,” said Ms. Brinkman, 37, who has been an educator at the Cartwright School District in Phoenix for 15 years.

By early 2020, Ms. Brinkman had heard of First Book and received a grant of $ 150 to purchase the organization’s books and coloring books, which she distributed to her students and read aloud during the distance school. She turned to First Book again this year for books like “Breathe Like a Bear,” by Kira Willey, which teaches children mindfulness exercises. And she used the group’s Trauma Toolkit, a downloadable resource to help teachers support students.

“I wish everyone knew about First Book because it has only been helpful,” she said.

World Central Kitchen, another Neediest Cases Fund beneficiary group, provided meals to health workers at vaccination sites across the country this year.

“The past two years have really shown us how vulnerable so many communities are,” said Fiona Donovan, relief operations manager at World Central Kitchen.

Recently, the organization provided meals to healthcare workers at vaccination sites run by Children’s National Hospital in Washington and Lanham, Maryland. Since the clinics immunized children, the organization often brought fruit and cookies to distribute as a treat.

“As long as the funding is available and there is a need,” Ms. Donovan said, “we’ll do what we can.”

Donations to The Neediest Cases Fund can be made online or by check.

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