Students struggling financially because of the pandemic have found Mohawk College is there for them when they need it most.
The Mohawk College Foundation and Mohawk International have found innovative ways to help students in need during this pandemic crisis.
In addition to supplying ad hoc emergency support funds, the Foundation developed a gift catalogue in 2019 that allows donors to provide practical gifts to students in need. Donors can fill a fridge for $100, contribute to utilities for $50, or pay into a travel fund to get students home for $75. The gift catalogue also includes textbooks, medical and dental insurance, and school supplies, such as lab safety glasses, specialized calculators, or skilled trades tools.
The catalogue was a lifeline and provided direct financial support to students, particularly international students who were stranded in Canada by the pandemic, says Katie Burrows, Director, Development.
“We tried to meet the most tangible needs of students. It’s a way for donors to support students by donating small amounts, much like crowdsourcing.”
Burrows says she’s not aware of another college with such a catalogue, an initiative that won an award from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education this year.
“We didn’t set these programs up for COVID-19, but they have made such a difference to students and that showed we were focused on the right things. It was very heartening to learn we could help,” said Burrows.
At the end of April, Mohawk International launched Helping Hampers, an initiative that began with friends and family donating food to help students from abroad. the program expanded, eventually delivery close to 100 baskets filled with food, gift cards, and personal care items to students stuck far from home or in quarantine.
Phase 2 of the program is possible thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF) to support International students with food insecurity issues.
The HCF grant recognizes “the unique and pressing needs being faced by Mohawk International students as a result of the pandemic,” said Sharon Charters, Manager of Grants at HCF. “We were particularly impressed with the significant role of the students themselves and the openness to work with community partners.”
Javier Rumie and his wife Sandra Velasquez and their two children (pictured) arrived from Bogota, Colombia in December.
“The pandemic changed our plans, like everyone around the world,” said Rumie, who came to Mohawk to pursue a Global Business Management graduate certificate.
When COVID-19 hit, Velasquez couldn’t find a job and the couple’s savings were depleted by the pandemic’s toll on the peso.
Helping Hampers pitched in with two deliveries of food, shampoo, soap and toothpaste, along with a grocery store gift card. The children, 9 and 6, got gifts, including stuffed animals dressed in Mohawk jerseys.
The family never expected to get that kind of help from a college, says Velasquez.
“It’s so great to know someone is out there who cares that you can call in an emergency.”
Image: Javier Rumie, Sandra Valaquez and family in Hamilton, Ontario