The pandemic has hit Bermuda hard, not least the Third Sector. Those at the heart of the island’s charities reflect on the past year and express their hopes for the year ahead. Sarah Lagan reports.

The executive director for the Women’s Resource Centre, Tina Laws, said navigating Covid-19 has not been easy for anyone.

“But with the support of our valued donors, community partners and volunteers, we have been extremely grateful to have remained focused on fulfilling our mission to enhance the lives of women and their families in Bermuda.

“We are committed to supporting women facing life’s challenges, especially during these unprecedented times.

“Over the past year-and-a-half, WRC has had to pivot to become an emergency response agency.

“Our support has afforded us the opportunity to purchase and distribute grocery vouchers to more than 3,000 families, provide free counselling – which we saw a 45 per cent increase of necessary emotional support – and our various online workshops for community training and support to assist families with relationship building, financial literacy, stress relief and personal growth, to name a few.

“It is imperative that WRC continue to meet the growing needs of the women and their families in our community. To help with that, we will be reintroducing our training and education component, grief and domestic violence support groups, along with our ongoing counselling supportive services.

“We are also extremely excited about starting the second cohort of the Transformational Community Supportive Services Programme, graciously supported by HSBC. This programme will also be run at the soon to be opened Transformational Living Centre for Families.”

Dany Pen has seen Covid make a huge impact right across the charity – from services, programmes and operating costs.

The executive director for Raleigh International Bermuda, said: “During this pandemic, we had to develop an Emergency Alumni Relief Programme where we reassessed our budget to see how we could support our young people with food, grocery vouchers, toiletries, and job skill training workshops.

“Our Brave Programme, an introductory life skill and anti-violence programme, for teenagers aged 14 to 17 was very successful. Because the programme is in high demand from the community, we have expanded it to offer two after school programmes and midterm camps.

“For this upcoming year 2022, I hope to see donors realise our essential services and help to provide more funding for our programmes so that we can continue to offer our Brave and Venturers Programme as well as our services such as Malcolm’s Room, a community safe space for young people to escape abuse, harm, and toxic environments.”

Last year when the environment really hit the headlines as world leaders gathered for COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, and countries were hit with series of disasters linked to climate change.

Kim Smith, executive director of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce: “The thread that runs through BEST’s work is the need for all of us to understand, accept and appreciate that human activities must be designed and carried out more in harmony with the natural world, not in conflict and competition with the world.

“With environmental concerns dominated by the threats from climate change, BEST continues to urge the Government to formalise a national strategy so that we can identify specific ways to contribute through our work.

“However, each of us must also examine our own personal habits and practices and commit to making changes wherever change is needed.

“Our further hope for the New Year is for a national vision for the preservation of our collective quality of life in Bermuda.

“We need to, and must, be able to rely on each other pulling in the same direction to address environmental threats. This is something that we promote with increased collaboration on all BEST projects.”

For Thea Furbert, the co-founder and board chairwoman, Tomorrow’s Voices, 2021 was a year of “many incredible accomplishments” and “the community we serve despite the challenges of the past two years”.

“Last year we were thrilled to be able to expand our services to continue to support our clients throughout their life with the launching of our Thriving Beyond 21 programme and we are currently assisting four clients.

“We also saw success with our first annual Autism Awareness Conference, which received incredible feedback from all of our participants.

“Although we have had to move some of our programmes and fundraising events to virtual platforms, we were so encouraged and thankful to all the donors, sponsors, volunteers, participants and parents, who have continued to support us and make so many of our events successful.”

Sheelagh Cooper, chairwoman, Habitat for Humanity, Bermuda, said financial and volunteer support last year reached levels she had never seen.

“To say that most of us are glad to say goodbye to 2021 is probably an understatement, but there were definitely some things for which to be thankful.

“For me, one of those things is the increased community awareness of, and willingness to address the plight of those who are struggling to make ends meet … in particular the growing efforts we see in both the corporate and the charitable sectors to come to grips with the massive problem of homelessness.

“From a Habitat for Humanity standpoint, we have been blessed with financial and volunteer support this year, the likes of which we have never seen.

“The outpouring of support, not only for Habitat, but for so many others in the charitable sector has really been an indication of the increased level of understanding of the nature of poverty and its impact on those facing it.

“So, a big thank you to all of those whose generosity and love have given hope to so many.”

Debi Ray-Rivers, founder and executive director, Saving Children And Revealing Secrets (Scars) said that in 2021 an additional 1,220 adults were Scars certified.

“Altogether, 11,400 adults in Bermuda have been provided with the tools and skills necessary to prevent child sexual abuse and to react responsibly if it occurs.

“As we begin 2022, we are excited about our partnership with the Darkness to Light organisation in creating a recertification curriculum called Beyond Stewards, specifically designed for those working with children that have already been Scars certified.

“The information presented in this new virtual training programme will include videos incorporating interviews from our very own Bermuda youth leaders, psychologists, teachers, and survivors.

“Our hope for 2022 is that more parents will become Scars certified, to become equipped and empowered to talk to their child about body safety early and often.”

The Royal Gazette