COVID-19 has torn through our world over the past months, disrupting lives, putting the health of our family and friends at risk, and destabilizing the local community which we hold so dear. We are all coping in the best way we know how, as daily stories of resilience and ingenuity inspire us to keep pushing onward. In this series of blog posts, I am highlighting some amazing stories of resiliency and dedication in Portland’s non-profit sector — stories of organizations and community members who are fighting to serve our most affected populations.
This week I spoke with Friends of the Children – Portland. Friends of the Children – Portland guides, supports, and mentors almost 500 children across the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area. For over 26 years, they have worked to break the cycle of generational poverty, recognizing that children born into poverty face barriers to accessing their education, healthcare, and opportunities to create the future of their choosing. They provide a salaried, professional mentor, called a Friend, for a child starting in kindergarten and extending through graduation. A full 12.5 years. No matter what.
During the COVID-19 crisis, food and housing insecurity have remained two of the most pressing issues affecting our community. In response to these immediate needs, Friends of the Children has been working hard to ensure children’s housing and food needs are met. This includes setting up a fund to provide ongoing support in the face of unexpected emergency expenses that put extreme stress on family resources. Friends of the Children is also partnering with Portland’s Northeast Emergency Food Program to ensure that children don’t go hungry.
In addition to meeting the physical needs of children and their families, Friends of the Children has evolved its programming and support for a virtual world. This involves navigating a web of complex challenges and emotions for children whose social structure, support system, and community has been vastly altered. Each of the almost 500 children with whom Friends of the Children works now has their own individualized service plan for remote learning and connection. The organization is also working closely with school districts to ensure academic and mental health support.
Friends are also focusing on the whole health of the child – creating opportunities for fun and play while helping kids remain future-focused and remember their unique sparks and their gifts. With summer’s arrival, Friends of the Children continues to grow its ability to engage creativity remotely: through individualized games and activities, partnering with other organizations to provide remote music lessons, and treasure or scavenger hunts throughout kids’ neighborhoods.
In the face of extreme challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, Friends of the Children has shown its unwavering commitment to ensuring a better future for our community’s children. But help is still needed. Friends of the Children – Portland has Amazon Wishlists where those interested in supporting their mission can purchase families’ most-needed supplies. They are also actively looking for a partner who could help provide mobile hotspots, as a lack of internet is a critical barrier facing many children and their families. To learn more or donate to Friends of the Children – Portland, visit their website at https://friendspdx.org/.