RED CROSS GRANT REPORT
On July 6, 2020, FOCAS received 100% of the money requested from the first application submitted for a Canada Emergency COVID-19 Response Grant. This covered start up costs, including assistance for 200 vulnerable people as well as part-time staff. The need was greater than expected, so a second Grant request was submitted to serve another 300 people, along with hiring casual staff. On August 06, 2020, 98% of the amount requested was received.
As the grant time frame was from May to November, we started the project work immediately. After congratulating our members, we announced the project on July 13, 2020. Then we started communicating with community leaders, religious centers, and professional organizations. They helped us to get the people who were most impacted by COVID-19. After the announcement of the project, we requested the associations and religious centers to provide us with the lists of the beneficiaries they referred. As to the criterion of the beneficiaries, we trusted the organizations to determine that.
We then hired part-time staff who started between July 29 and August 6. We hired a Delivery Driver, Volunteer Coordinator, Admin Assistant and Project Director. Almost immediately, the Volunteer Engagement Coordinator position developed into more of a Project Assistant role instead.
We called beneficiaries making sure their addresses and contact numbers were correct. We also added the details of genders and ages of the beneficiaries, as required for reporting purposes. After the first round of deliveries, we did surveys of how much these people were really in need of the support. Most of the beneficiaries expressed the importance of the support; how much they were impacted by COVID-19. They also gave suggestions of food required, especially for people with special dietary needs. We made changes accordingly. Canned beans and tomatoes, as well as “brown” foods were added to the food hampers, along with gift cards.
Information of our food hamper services then started to disseminate by word of mouth and neighbours of the beneficiaries started to ask for the support. Owing to our understanding of the social cohesion of the community we were serving, we could not decline them because we knew immigrants and newcomer communities were the hard-hit section of the Canadian population. We also learned our food allocation ($35 per person) for two weeks was generally more than what they needed. Secondly, we got the budget for 24 weeks and the first 12 weeks of this time had elapsed before we received the grant. This allowed us the opportunity of using the budget for additional people.
We also reduced the budget per person to reach more people. As a result, we were able to increase the number of beneficiaries from the 500 initially planned to 1000 people. The number of requests grew very quickly. We surveyed how the new adjustment did affect the clients and the feedback was encouraging that the food we are giving is enough for the intended two weeks.
Family composition of the beneficiaries. The following graph will show the family composition of the beneficiaries.
Purchasing the groceries: first we collected quotes for the items to purchase. To do that we went to different stores like Walmart, Real Canadian Superstore, No-frills, Save-on-Food, Safeway, and Costco, and checked the price on the shelves. We then met with store managers and asked if they could sell the items in bulk. The answers were that they could not. Then we asked if they discount for items we bought in bulk. The answer was no, again. Then we had to buy the items we needed on shelves at retail prices. Most importantly we assigned more volunteers to hunt for these items when they are on sale.
How did we know if the items we purchase are needed by our clients? We depended on two factors to buy these items. Firstly, we surveyed the demand for these items by the communities we targeted. Secondly, the type of the storage we had. We could not accommodate perishable food. There is staple food these communities eat daily. Items like rice, macaroni, flour, sugar, and oil. Secondly, many organizations provided them with rotten veggies and fruits and most clients asked us not to give them. They rather preferred non-perishable food so that they would buy the perishable items themselves.
Food items purchased are mostly dry and non-perishable foods that are common to the community we serve such as rice, sugar, macaroni, pasta, flour, oil, canned beans, canned tomato and gift cards for freshies, along with COVID-19 related supplies, hand sanitizer, masks and gloves.
Amounts of items purchased for hampers
Who purchases these items? We have 40 volunteers working on the project. Some of them were assigned to purchase the items based on their background or experience. They buy the items with their own money and once we received the items, we reimburse their money. There was a time when we had difficulty to get enough volunteers who were available, so we used the money for casual staff to pay most experienced individuals to purchase items for us. Even most of them donated the gas of their vehicles and mileages. In most cases our volunteers buy the goods for us. More than 31 volunteers participated in purchasing the items. There are individuals who purchased the items voluntarily more than 11 times.
Each round the purchased items are graphically represented here (round one to four)
Graph that shows the amount of people who received food.
What does the beneficiary’s survey say? The surveys and the outcomes are so encouraging that most of the clients suggest they need the support continued beyond the November deadline. They most often suggest which item they need most. In some cases when you have some items for the consecutive two weeks, they advise us to give that particular item to be reduced or given to other people. We pretty much collect their feedback informally after every two rounds and are guided by their advice. Formally, we have collected feedback after Round 1 (all beneficiaries) and after Round 4 deliveries (a random sample).
The following is what they say to our survey team. “Without this support, back to school for our kids may not be smooth”. “Your help supported us in our transition from being jobless to getting job.” We are also hearing that some families need additional financial support, beyond what we can provide.
Another important part of the project is the COVID-19 Awareness sessions. This part of the project started on August 1 and will continue every 2 weeks until November 29. Many hundred people have participated in the sessions. Community leaders, health professionals, economic and social service experts have participated in giving presentations on different COVID- 19 related impacts. They present clinical, social, economic, psychological, and emotional aspects to the participants. So far, we have completed seven sessions. On these training lessons, people from all over Canada have participated. Almost all the trainings were given online on Zoom platform.
Good financial management of this project is a key to our success. The financial part of the project was handled by our admin assistant and chartered accountant who supervises our financial utilizations. Most of the money used to purchase the groceries is followed by the remunerations for our staff. The rest of the allocation of the budget is depicted by the following graph. We evaluate our financial status after every round of ration distribution and every month of salary payments. For the accuracy of our work we use cutting edge accounting software.
So far, the project is smoothly moving and recording a lot of progress. We started with a few people and now reach out to 1000 people. We started with serving newcomer Oromo community members, then expanded to include Arab, Syrian, and Somali newcomers, along with a few Canadians, due to requests received. All the trainings and ration distributions to three cities are being completed as planned. Our staff teamwork activities and experiences are growing. In the beginning we stored the groceries in our office. In a short period of time we had to add a larger, more suitable location.
CONCLUSION THE PROJECT
AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE PROJECT