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Stronger Together | COVID-19, A Year In Review for MMC and the HIPPY Family Across Canada

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit communities across the globe. While the effects of the pandemic and cautionary measures to contain the pandemic have impacted everyone, it is also true that everyone experienced the impact differently. This difference in impact and its severity can be attributed to the pre-existing situations faced by various groups. Groups who were already vulnerable, isolated and marginalized were harder hit as they dealt with not only social isolation but food security, increased poverty, reduced access to essential services (health, education, social development) and in many cases increased levels of violence against women and girls. As with all emergencies, women were amongst the group which were hardest hit by COVID-19.

Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) made a conscious and quick decision to adapt its flagship program HIPPY to the ‘new normal’ which meant digitization of resources, capacity building of staff and partners, implementation of agile and flexible approaches to meet diverse and constantly evolving needs of the families and quickly raising resources to meet funding gaps.

The response from MMC’s implementing partners, HIPPY staff across the country and the resilience and strength of mothers in refugee, newcomer and indigenous communities to continue with HIPPY during this unforeseen testing time was overwhelming. Some of the key needs that were addressed to facilitate client retention at partner sites across Canada included hard copy curriculum drop-offs, door-step deliveries and creation of additional resources to support mothers in engaging their kids effectively as entire families were restrained within their homes. Mothers shared managing mental health and well-being, self care, increased workload, demands of transitional learning at schools, not having enough food and loss of employment as some of the major challenges they dealt with. Mothers also stood resilient faced with isolation, lack of community connection, low official language skills, limited mobility and trauma caused by the COVID virus for everyone in the family.

HIPPY Home Visitors (HVs) continued supporting mothers through virtual home visits and as a result MMC and its partners served almost 1300 isolated and marginalized mothers in refugee, newcomer and indigenous communities across Canada – many of these women could not connect to other essential services without HIPPY – and may have thus fallen through the cracks.

In our experience WhatsApp remained the most common mode of communication for mothers, with 67% of mothers using it to communicate with HVs and other mothers.

92% of the mothers in HIPPY used the hard copy curriculum dropped of to them by MMC partners while 36% used electronic HIPPY curriculum. 7% mothers used MMC’s Stay ‘N’ Play series while 4% used HIPPY Bites (light touch HIPPY activities).

MMC was able to provide digital devices to many mothers across Canada through the support of IRCC, Community Support Foundation and private funders. This enabled HIPPY mothers to engage in HIPPY more effectively and served broader settlement and connection building outcomes for families.

While HIPPY mothers required support in various domains of life the most common supports provided during the past year were emotional support, help in setting children up for transitional learning from home, food security and housing.

The past year has been a whirlwind and MMC is inspired and in awe of the strength, commitment and resilience of our partners, HIPPY staff across Canada and refugee, newcomer and indigenous mothers who worked with us tirelessly each day to ensure the best possible circumstances for their families and a stronger more inclusive and equitable Canada.

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