By Darren Lum
While the world has stayed apart to stay together during the ongoing pandemic some residents have been left isolated in Haliburton County.
Some may not get to see or hear from a grandchild for months. Others may struggle with their mental health without having a social outlet outside their home. Stress may build as members of the family compete to use the same piece of technology to do their school assignments or tasks for work.
To help these community residents in need of connectivity the people of SIRCH Community Services Rotaract Haliburton Highlands and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kawartha Lakes – Haliburton came up with the eight-week program Caring Connection.
As of July 5 they are accepting used and operational mobile phones tablets laptop and desktop computers in the hopes of distributing them to residents in need.
“Volunteers will clear the personal data off of each device update the software and upload relevant applications. Repurposed devices will then be distributed to local community members that have an urgent need for a communicative device” a press release reads. “A volunteer Rotaractor – who has been trained by Big Brothers and Big Sisters – will be paired up with each person receiving a device to ensure that they know how to use their device and can get as much value as possible out of it. Children will have the opportunity to request continued mentorship with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Kawartha Lakes – Haliburton.”
The goal for Caring Connection is to collect 500 devices by mid-August when the collection drive ends.
An evaluation of the project will be conducted to assess the impact.
The idea for this initiative came out of the virtual meetings held by the Service Providers’ Network during the initial onset of COVID-19 which worked on coordinating services and identifying gaps in society. One of the gaps was ensuring there is connectivity for individuals and families who were isolated and struggling. After the strong showing of support from the community through SIRCH’s Rally for Rhubarb SIRCH executive director Gena Robertson was prompted by a request of possible project ideas for Rotaractors by Christine Carr director of service projects for Rotaract Haliburton Highlands to tackle connectivity issues during the pandemic.
Since SIRCH Repair Cafes were suspended because of COVID-19 some of the funds for that effort were reallocated to the co-ordination of this initiative.
“We knew that we wouldn’t be able to run any Repair Cafes in the short term so requested to have some of that grant funding reallocated to help with this project. We hired Rebecca Anderson who was both a Repair Cafe volunteer and was a founder of Rotaract in Haliburton. Literally it was like everything fell into place. I know people will dig out their good used phones and computers to give to someone in need – we have an extremely generous community” said Robertson in a prepared statement.
Anyone interested in donating can call SIRCH 705-457-1742 to arrange a drop off or pick up.