Elmira-based Bring on the Sunshine is among the groups receiving support from the racial equity fund provided by the Kitchener Waterloo Community Fund (KWCF). All told, 29 organizations were allocated $436,000 in last week’s disbursement.
The fund was established to fill a need that became apparent with the rise of Black Lives Matter and groups championing other racialized groups, says KWCF president Elizabeth Heald.
“During COVID, we especially identified that there were heightened needs and so we launched in 2020 our COVID-19 BIPOC sustainability and recovery fund. So after doing that in 2020, we thought ‘OK, this is great, this makes sense, this needs to be a permanent program.’ The goals are to support organizations that are led by and serve people across Waterloo Region who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, and that really reinforces our approach at KWCF to encourage self-led activities. The funds are intended to assist those most impacted by the ongoing and systemic racial disparities that exist in our community.”
This type of funding ensures KWCF is supporting all parts of the community, noted Heald.
“Launching this racial equity fund has introduced us to organizations that are Black, Indigenous or people of colour-led that we maybe didn’t know about before and, conversely, introduced KWCF as a funding option to organizations that are Black, Indigenous, or people of colour-led that didn’t know about us.”
Along with Bring on the Sunshine, funds went to Lion’s Mane Ministry in Breslau and the Wilmot Family Resource Centre.
The funding was welcomed by Bring on the Sunshine executive director Alice Penny.
“Bring on the Sunshine has been doing this community work for about 12 years, but since the transition and the whole Black Lives Matter thing, what I’ve appreciated with KW Community Foundation is their ability to respond to what the Black community was saying, because we’ve been complaining about all these systemic barriers with funding process and the applications or even just what they’re offering. It really has responded to what organizations like mine have been saying, whether it’s how labour-intensive the processes are or whether it’s the language that allows us to articulate what we’re actually doing. I’ve just found they’ve probably been the most adaptive and responsive to what people who are looking for funding have been frustrated with in the Black community.”
Some of the funding will be used for Bring on the Sunshine’s new kids’ club.
“We have been building a Bring on the Sunshine kids’ club. Part of what we like to do is engage youth on different levels, so we have university-age youth who are working with the younger youth, kind of mentoring this generation and they’re mentoring the generation that’s beneath them and seeing ways in which to engage the whole family unit as well,” she explained.
“We do a festival in February for Black History Month that is all in celebration of who we are and also gives opportunities for the youth to do so.”
Due to the pandemic, everything Bring on the Sunshine did in the last year or so was online, giving them little interaction with the community or the youth they mentor.
“Younger people have struggled a lot, especially when school was absolutely all online. I think just the increased need for those connections, meaningful connections with the youth, but also without enough resources or as the world is always having to shift – you don’t start out knowing any of it but you very quickly have to always learn to adapt to what the environment is. I think that adaptability has been a requirement of where the world is right now. The needs of the communities have also increased as well, because I think the young people and the older people they’ve needed those touch points, those opportunities to have those conversations,” explained Penny about some of the biggest challenges her organization faced.
More information about KWCF’s racial equity fund can be found online.