By Ed Graça, Executive Director of the Abrigo Centre
As we approach 14 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Abrigo Centre recently joined a consortium of local social service agencies and community groups that will serve as a city-wide Vaccine Engagement Team designed to educate Toronto residents about the safety and value of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Working with funding from the city and out of the York Weston Pelham cluster, Abrigo is one of 12 organizations within that cluster that each will formulate a team to help get residents educated and vaccinated to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Abrigo will focus on four populations within our community. The Portuguese-speaking individuals and families in Davenport, the former city of York and the surrounding area, seniors within those same neighbourhoods, as well as newcomers and women facing gender-based violence.
The behind the scenes work on this project is well underway. The next few months are critical to educate and vaccinate as many people within our target audience as possible. Our energy will be laser-focused for the time being but this program will operate through to March 31, 2022, the end of Abrigo’s fiscal year.
Although uncertainty was always at the forefront, as an agency we never thought we would get this far into the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in March 2020 the line of thinking was that we would need to ride things out four to six weeks or maybe three or four months at the most. Then, reality slowly and painfully set in.
Here we are, over a year later, and the number of COVID-19 cases are higher than they’ve ever been before. Gone are the days when we were all terrified of 100 positive cases in the city. Record highs in the thousands across the province are now a daily occurrence. By now most of us likely know of a family member, friend or work colleague who has contracted the virus. As horrific as today’s numbers are, some of us are unwilling to educate ourselves about the virus or accept the danger it poses to our community and each other.
That is why the Vaccine Engagement Team program is so important to residents of Davenport, the former city of York and the surrounding neighbourhoods, particularly those assigned as a postal code “hotspot”.
More and more Abrigo clients are calling in to our Intake number looking for information or a location on where to get their vaccine. We are seeing clients struggling with the provincial online booking system or they have limited to no English language skills to navigate within the site itself.
Abrigo’s Project Lead and Ambassadors
As a Vaccine Engagement Partner, the Abrigo Centre will hire a Project Lead to help execute outreach protocols and six Ambassadors to connect with our community and get people the information they need to make informed decisions.
Abrigo’s Project Lead and Ambassadors will educate and encourage the Portuguese-speaking community to get vaccinated through media interviews and appearances, social media activity, town halls, telephone, and virtual calls, and in-person meetings when appropriate, just to name a few. Our team will also provide additional support such as help finding transportation or translation services and provide any follow-up as needed post-vaccination.
Life and Hope Senior’s Group
Abrigo will look to immediately expand on some of the vaccine engagement work we are already doing. An example is communicating with clients in our Life and Hope seniors’ group. Over the last number of months there’s been discussions with some clients about getting the vaccine but more can be done to reach deeper into that group. We hope to expand our efforts in May to reach all of our 250 clients through phone and virtual calls as well as through the senior’s Life and Hope Facebook group that meets regularly online.
This is a challenging and exciting initiative but yet another way Abrigo positively impacts our community on a regular basis. If you want more information about our Vaccine Engagement Team efforts, please call us at 416-534-3434.
Please don’t hesitate, get your COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible. The life it saves may be your own.
Our focus is to connect, integrate and support the Portuguese-speaking community in Canada.
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