“We are going through a very tough time. This is a bright spot in our day.”
The Azrieli Foundation supports programs that enhance the quality of life for neurodiverse individuals, to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate fully in their communities.
When COVID-19 closed everything down last March, the Foundation moved quickly to assess the needs of our communities and to deploy $2 million in immediate emergency funding. Over the course of 2020, the Foundation allocated more than $10M in pandemic responsive grants. For more about the Foundation’s COVID relief funding, click here.
One of the early recipients was Toronto’s Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre (MNJCC) which quickly adapted its in-person programs to an online platform, providing inclusive and accessible programming for young adults.
“The MNJCC has for many years been a hub for inclusive programming that has been welcoming and encouraging to people of all abilities to be together based around their interests.”
The Azrieli Foundation’s grants to the MNJCC for their Summer Fun Intensive and Every Day Friends allowed the programs to continue, offering drama games, arts, music, dance and yoga. The Foundation’s early funding allowed a quick transition to online programming, providing critical connections for their participants who were instantly isolated by the pandemic.
Liviya Mendelsohn, Director of Disability and Inclusion at the MNJCC, talks about the importance of the program. “We had a robust social network for people 18 to 35, as this is often the time when people with disabilities age out of support,” said Mendelsohn. “The MNJCC has for many years been a hub for inclusive programming that has been welcoming and encouraging to people of all abilities to be together based around their interests. We knew how important it was to continue that programming.”
While there were steep learning curves and technological logistics to manage to make the change to online programming, it was a priority to make the sessions easily accessible as quickly as possible. “We designed our programs to be one click, so once you’re in you have different activities coming to you for two hours at a time.” This format provided a level of independence and structure to participants, providing an anchor to people who were unable to engage in their standard routines and jobs.
It has also given a much-needed respite to caregivers, with one family member commenting, “This program is a lifesaver. We are going through a very tough time. This is a bright spot in our day.”
During the pandemic, the MNJCC has been committed to keeping their community engaged and connected to reduce social isolation and its mental health impacts. The Azrieli Foundation has provided an additional grant for the MNJCC’s new hybrid accessible programs that will be offered both in person and online. The programs will support over 300 young adults locally in Toronto, as well as participants in Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, London and Vancouver.
The lifeline provided by the MNJCC has been a resounding success, with one participant saying, “I love meeting new friends and doing theatre and song-writing online. It’s so fun and I can do it on Zoom with everyone.”