Making Connections During COVID-19

ECF grant enables Connect Society provide more than 450 clients from Edmonton’s Deaf community with vital information during pandemic

Edmonton’s Deaf community is staying informed and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to Connect Society and Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF).

Ammar Shihada and his wife are two Deaf individuals who receive help from Connect Society’s Family Support Services. As part of the Deaf community in our city, they have always faced communication barriers. The global pandemic creates new barriers and hurdles to challenge them.

“A social worker always helps, especially with four kids at home,” explains Shihada. “But Connect can’t visit now due to the pandemic.”

Connect Society normally offers outreach programs and links Deaf individuals with resources that fit their specific needs. Since the pandemic shutdown, in-person outreach is harder to manage. COVID-19 advisories from health organizations and the government are not always accessible for the Deaf community.

“We’re no longer home visiting and we need to find alternate ways to stay in contact,” said Anna Marie Molzahn, a social worker with Connect Society. “Deaf people face significant social vulnerabilities, like an inability to access information and support services in an equitable sort of way. COVID further complicates the exchange of information.”

Due to the pandemic, Connect Society’s services and staff were working at full capacity. Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) provided a grant to allow Connect Society to expand its services to meet their community’s specific needs. The ECF grant has assisted Connect Society in completing 450 connections with Deaf families and individuals in the last eight weeks.

“Information is key to safely navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and community Engagement. “Supporting the Connect Society to ensure the Deaf community is able to access the info they need to stay safe and healthy was a no-brainer.”

ECF seeded the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund (RRF) on March 25 with $500,000 of its discretionary dollars. Since then, the RRF has exceeded a million dollars to allocate to Edmonton’s charitable organizations, thanks to contributions from donors and the wider community. To date, ECF has provided more than $1.2 million from various granting streams to support Edmonton’s charitable sector through the pandemic.

“We are very grateful for the support from the Edmonton Community Foundation. They understand the immediate needs of Edmontonians and the community at large, and are very responsive to those needs. In our application, they identified that we were well positioned to provide support for our very unique and specialized population,” Molzahn said.

With some help from ECF, Connect Society has succeeded in keeping Edmonton’s Deaf community in the know during the pandemic.

“Whenever news or announcements about the pandemic come out, I can go straight to Anna and she will answer all of my questions,” Shihada said. “She has helped myself and my family understand COVID advice regarding masks and physical distancing.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.