A Year in Review
2010 was a busy year at the CPC. With increasingly difficult economic times, our doors were flooded with new families in crisis, looking for support. In the past 18 months, we went from seeing an average of 10 clients per week to up to almost 30 at times. We noticed a substantial change in the demographic of clients coming in. Previously, the client base was predominantly unskilled or semi skilled single mothers who often did not have their GED and were battling perpetual unemployment. In contrast, we are increasingly seeing under-employed individuals who struggle to support their family on reduced working-hours as well as educated individuals who have lost their jobs and have difficulty finding new employment. Families regularly face having their electricity turned off, are threatened with incarceration for non-payment of debt and are increasingly at risk of eviction. More than ever, Bermuda’s families are battling to make ends meet resulting in children whose basic needs are not being met.
Demand for Food Aid
The most noticeable increase in demand for the CPC’s services has come in the form of the need for food assistance, both from our Breakfast program and our food storehouse. In 2010/2011 we served over 35,000 breakfasts between the 4 schools where we provide free meals every school morning. In addition, we have had a tripling of clients coming in to the CPC for food supplies from our non-perishables food storehouse. As a result, our food supplies purchases have skyrocketed.
Poverty in Paradise
One of the CPC’s biggest achievements in the past year was the completion of “Poverty in Paradise: the Price We Pay” - a documentary commissioned and produced by the CPC which chronicles the hardship which we have been hearing day in and day out from our clients, and explores antecedents leading to a growing underclass and escalating gang violence. The film draws the link between the growing gap between the very wealthy and the very poor, its connection to the levels of gun violence and murders and offers a list of recommendations for social change. Sections of the recommendations were taken up by Senator Kathy Michelmore and tabled in the Senate’s debate on poverty.
On the client support services side of our work, the CPC has strengthened its focus on therapeutic intervention. Our clinical staff meets with every client seeking help to conduct an intake interview and determine the support services required to complement any food or financial assistance given. This step ensures that the CPC is not a handout organization, but one which empowers individuals to change their trajectories, with the hope that their children will not fall into the same poverty trap in which they find themselves.
We recognize that we need to take a proactive step in promoting sensible family planning. It is not sustainable for women to parent multiple children that they are not able to support. We are launching a campaign in the fall of 2012 to campaign for improve family planning. We have also partnered with the women’s clinic to fund the provision of the IUD birth control implant to any willing female.
Centre for Community and Family Mediation (CCFM)
The CPC’s subsidiary organization, the CCFM, has continued its free provision of family mediation, a service that is extensively utilized by Bermuda’s Family Court system. In the past year, over 40 families have been referred to the CCFM by Family Court Magistrates, in order to assist parents in resolving their disputes in a less damaging manner, limiting the negative impact of conflict on the children.
The CPC is also putting increased resources into its Peer Mediation training, available free-of-charge to all local schools. The goal of the training is to work therapeutically with our young people in order to equip them with constructive conflict resolution skills that can help them cope with conflict in both in school and at home, as well as throughout the remainder of their lives. In 2009, we produced a local peer mediation training DVD which has proven highly effectively in training the students we have been working with. With this DVD, along with a training manual that is currently in production, the CPC will offer a relevant, locally-created mediation training program to Bermuda’s students.
Pro-bono Legal Advice
One of the CPC’s newest services is the provision of pro-bono legal expertise 3 mornings per week in order to assist clients with Family Law problems (mainly Custody disputes), incarceration for debt issues as well as Landlord and Tenant disputes. The free-of-charge consultation includes drafting documentation and correspondence, liaising on behalf of clients with Courts, Police, Attorneys, Legal Aid and other service providers, attendance with clients at meetings, supporting clients throughout their cases either face to face or by email or telephone, following up after cases and signposting clients to other professionals or services where required. There has been a significant demand for this service.
Doing More With Less
From an operational perspective, the CPC has also made efforts to increase the amount of volunteer labor we utilize in order to cut costs while also extending the services we are able to offer. We have two committed part-time volunteers who have joined our team, a family lawyer and an additional social worker – both of whom have provided considerable support and expertise to our clients. We are also shifting the way in which we operate our breakfast program, from hiring one paid staff per school, to operating the programs solely with volunteers. We hope that these efforts will improve the quality of the services we offer as well as decrease our costs, allowing a greater percentage of the funding to funnel directly to the children.
Many organizations have received substantial reductions in the grants that they receive from government. In some ways the CPC is fortunate as we have never received government assistance and as such have never relied on something that for others has now been reduced or taken away. Nonetheless, our costs continue to escalate due to increased demand for both our services and the breakfasts and food aid we provide.
The Bermuda Association of Food Aid Providers
In other efforts to manage our budget and the sky-rocking cost of purchasing food supplies for both our breakfast program and food storehouse program, the CPC in conjunction with the Salvation Army co-founded the Bermuda Association of Food Aid Providers – a group of 8 agencies which are collaborating in order to examine ways of better serving client populations receiving food assistance as well as options that could decrease the cost of food purchases through collective action.
We believe that we have accomplished a considerable amount in the past year despite the influx of new clients combined with the increased challenge of winning the donor dollars in an economic downturn. We hope continue our efforts in assisting the most vulnerable families in the community.