Unique OpportunitiesOthers, COVID-19 , Leadership
Contributed by: UrbanPromise Toronto
“What are you going to do about summer camp?” That was the question our team faced with great uncertainty because of COVID-19. We knew going into summer, children would be bored, resistant to virtual programs, craving relationships, and wanting the freedom to play. Faced with cancelled facility permits, government restrictions, limited resources and concerns for safety, left our team with some unique challenges to provide summer camp in our communities.
These challenges presented unique opportunities for our StreetLeaders, (high school youth who are hired as leaders in their community). We hired, equipped, and discipled 21 StreetLeaders from Toronto Community Housing to reach children with the love of Jesus in their neighbourhood. With innovation, they planned and led summer camp in backyards or nearby parks. We called it ‘pop-up camps’.
I witnessed children running with great excitement at the beginning of each day at our pop-camps just to get to a picnic table in the park where they met our team, or as they were led in worship time by the StreetLeaders in their own backyards.
One of our core values is: We are relational – we value people over property, structure, and systems.
Despite not having access to indoor spaces, this pandemic forced us to focus on what we can do to invest in relationships and not what we cannot do.
Throughout the school year we continue to innovate as we create new ways of investing in relationships through providing after school programs, outdoor experiential learning, virtual dance and cooking classes.
Below is a testimony of what one parent had to say about one of our StreetLeaders:
“I want to let you know that one day one of my neighbours saw and heard Neshawn talking to my son on the way home and said how proud he was to hear Neshawn giving my son such good and positive advice. I was so happy to hear that. I want you all to know that without the leaders mentoring these kids through the bad and good times, as well as being there for us, as parents this means so much to me. I don’t even have family here for me, as much as you all have been in this neighbourhood a family. I love UrbanPromise with all my heart. Thank you for all you do.”
Our mission is to reach children in Toronto Community Housing with the love of Jesus, and raise them into leaders, who restore their community.
To learn more about UrbanPromise Toronto please visit our website at www.urbanpromise.com or read our latest newsletter. https://www.urbanpromise.com/mt-content/uploads/2020/12/up_news_nov2020_3.5.pdf
Shawn James, Executive Director of UrbanPromise Toronto