During these difficult times, The Corner has been determined to maintain programs and services for the community. During the midst of lockdown, The Corner’s brilliant volunteer team assisted in delivering meals to vulnerable residents and worked tirelessly to ensure that St. James Town’s most isolated residents were able to get food, medicine and some form of social interaction.
Now, The Corner faces the careful process of re-opening its doors. A screening process for everyone who enters The Corner be it clients, volunteers or visitors, ensures that the maximum health and safety measures are taken in protecting staff and other residents. Upon arrival, a receptionist will inquire about symptoms, contact and travel before ensuring that sanitizer is applied and a mask is worn.
During lockdown, some of The Corner’s after school programs such as Interactive Science and Fun with Numbers were transferred online. The facilitators prepared worksheets for parents to print at home or collect from The Corner so that children could work together on the same problems. However, unsurprisingly, children have struggled to stay fully engaged with online programs, often causing parents greater difficulties rather than the intended breaks. As a result, The Corner is currently discussing the possibility of re-introducing in-house after school programs.
Introduction to Photography
Sachintha Fernando has been running an Introductory Photography Course since 2018 and has successfully completed two year long courses with two sets of students. Since the pandemic, when the program was temporarily put on hold, Sachi has been thinking of ways to step things up. This year he is introducing an Advanced Photography Course, meant for people who already have an understanding of photography and want to enhance their skills. The course is open for people aged 13 and up. Although Sachi has considered conducting the course online, he admits that it is best suited to in-person teaching so the class can complete the hands-on part of the course. Sachi is looking forward to meeting his students this year and seeing how their skill will develop over the course. Of course, with the potential for another wave of the pandemic, another lockdown could affect not being able to meet up in person. If so, Sachi is able to transfer the course online, highlighting his adaptability in these uncertain times.
Coronavirus has caused disruption in every aspect of our lives. Yet, it has also created opportunities for new and innovative solutions. The St. James Town United Youth annual ‘Basketball and Back to School’ event was unfortunately unable to take place this year. However, these changing circumstances led to a partnership with Real Talk, Real Solutions, an organisation dedicated to youth violence prevention by training young people to be facilitators. As a result of this collaboration, approximately eighty people participated in a socially distanced and coronavirus safe Community Clean-Up on the 4th of September.
The Clean-Up volunteers worked tirelessly to remove litter from the streets and parks of St. James Town. A range of donors supported the event including Street Health who gave a $350 Home Depot voucher and provided 50 shirts, the Community Healing Project who provided food, and The City who loaned 15% of the necessary supplies. The event organizers would like to give a big thanks to all their supporters such as the St. James Town Community Corner and the MLSE Launch Pad.
Both SJT United Youth and Between the Lines are grassroots in nature; run and led by St. James Town residents who truly understand the community’s needs. It has long been recognized by these organizations that the youth of St James Town don’t feel a sense of ownership over the neighbourhood. Constant complaints about garbage, needles and cigarette butts can cause residents to feel ashamed of their home. This negative attitude about space is often reflected in the way the community as a whole is viewed. The Community Clean-Up not only helps to engage SJT youth but teaches them to take responsibility for the area and to take the first step in building a better and safer neighbourhood.
Although there were visibly different results on the day, Lydia, who helped organize the event explained that one week after the Clean-Up, litter was returning, thus highlighting the need for ongoing maintenance in St. James Town. As this first Clean-Up was such a success, the partner organizations are now considering making it a bi-annual event.