Unlike any other time in recent memory, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted community action on a scale, and at a speed, that required community organizations, service providers and funders to work differently and create new ways of doing things. The stories below illustrate the ingenuity, flexibility, and innovation that has unfolded in communities right across the country.

A Culturally Specific COVID-19 Response Strategy for African Nova Scotians in the Prestons (Nova Scotia)

A research study led by Dr. Ingrid Waldron and Dr. Barbara Hamilton–Hinch of Dalhousie University will provide solution-oriented recommendations for how clinical services, health promotion and the collection of disaggregated race-based health data can improve access to COVID-19 testing and health services, and reduce infections in the Prestons, by identifying the social determinants of health that create exposure to COVID-19 and risk for infections and its exacerbation of current illnesses experienced by African Nova Scotians in the Prestons.

At a time when more Canadians are cognizant of systemic anti-racism and asking questions about equity and access, this study is a timely response to better understand the impact of health inequities on emergency response and preparedness. CBC profiled the study as part of their series on Being Black in Canada, an ongoing dialogue on the experiences of Black Canadians.

“Under Dr. Waldron’s leadership, we are excited to work with members of the Preston community to collaboratively develop a culturally specific response strategy for COVID-19 that will be beneficial to the larger African Nova Scotian community. We recognize the impact the pandemic has had on members of the province but particularly on African Nova Scotians. By developing culturally relevant strategies for African Nova Scotians, with their input, we will help reduce some of the stigma and stereotypes experienced by so many in the future.”

Dr. Barbara Hamilton-Hinch, Associate Professor Recreation and Leisure Studies, and Assistant Vice-Provost Equity and Inclusion, School of Health and Human Performance, Dalhousie University

Food For All New Brunswick

Food For All New Brunswick developed a new model to coordinate and rapidly respond to food security needs across the entire province. What began with a conference call in March 2020 with 75 provincial leaders, including politicians, government officials, service workers and food experts discussing a provincial response to food security, evolved into a robust network that:

  • Directly deployed over $100,000 in funding to community organizations
  • Supported the redistribution of over $800,000 in emergency grants to 100+ organizations
  • Supported organizations to determine hyper-local community solutions to food needs
  • Advocated for legislation to keep community gardens and farmers markets open across the province, with public health protocols in place
  • Connected stakeholders to emergency food programs through an open-sourced database
  • Produced a digital map of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) & Food Projects

Food For All recognized that addressing food security needs to be about more than delivering meals — it’s about building capacity and skills across the province to develop strong, local food systems. This food movement demonstrates what a cross-sector coalition with a shared goal can achieve — putting aside any political, cultural or regional differences to ensure all New Brunswickers have access to good food.

“Food For All NB provided the time and connections needed to plan ahead in an urgent moment, and generated essential income for local farmers during the lockdowns.”

A local farm partner of Food For All New Brunswick

“I want to highlight the tremendous value of the conferences offered by your group. Your leadership is a beacon of light during those difficult times.”

A community services organization that works with Food For All New Brunswick

“Food insecurity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, presents a health and social crisis and it has never been more important to work together to provide access to affordable and healthy food for all New Brunswickers. Due to Medavie’s thoughtful donation to Food For All NB, citizens in need will have access to community-based initiatives that support active living and healthy eating in our province.”

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard

Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund

The Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund (IPRF) is an Indigenous-led effort to respond to urgent community needs while taking a long-term view on building community resilience. The fund demonstrates a new approach to philanthropy by trusting communities to determine and deliver what they need most, rather than prescribing specific programs or frameworks. By taking this approach, Indigenous communities can be more flexible, adaptable, and nimble in meeting the needs of their residents.

In the spring of 2020, a group of Indigenous people with deep experience in philanthropy in Canada, representing many First Nations, came together to establish the fund to meet urgent needs using a humans-first approach, rather than divvying up resources across a defined list of solutions. This group of champions for Indigenous communities came together every two weeks to be as nimble as possible in allocating immediate resources for Indigenous-led initiatives as these communities managed the impacts of COVID-19. The result is increased sovereignty for Indigenous communities and Indigenous-led organizations in strengthening food security, mental and cultural health and digital connectivity.

“Trust is the underlying principle of the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund. We trust and understand Indigenous ingenuity, and respect that communities know what they need better than anyone because we have the lived experience of working collectively. Through this approach, to date more than 140 Indigenous-led initiatives and organizations coast-to-coast-to-coast are leveraging local data and community knowledge alongside philanthropic capital to provide flexible, adaptive and crucial support where it is most needed.”

Wanda Brascoupé - Kanien’keha, Skarù rę’, Anishinabeg, Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund

“The original peoples of Turtle Island have many stories of the past and present that reflect adaptability living in relationship with Mother Earth. We have learned that as the earth changes so does our relationship. Embedded in all of our stories are values that speak to humility, openness, listening deeply, awareness, trust and bravery and so too does the creation of this fund.”

Kevin Lamoureux, Anishinabeg, Faculty of University of Winnipeg

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