Pandemic is last straw’ for YouthNet
A programme for young people that has operated for almost 25 years is to shut its doors.
Clare Mello, the executive director for YouthNet, said the decision came after five years of financial problems — and the Covid-19 pandemic was the last straw.
Ms Mello said: “In January, we started with a $32,000 deficit in deferred donations — those are donations that we had expected to get in November and December last year, but they were deferred for a number of reasons.
“We had a strategic planning session in February to find a way we could pivot our services and create a new plan.
“Unfortunately, that ran headlong into Covid and we didn’t have enough runway.”
YouthNet was founded in 1996 to support the island’s young people through mentorship programmes.
The charity has worked with partners in schools and other non-profit groups, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Reading Clinic, to reach thousands of children.
Ms Mello added the economic climate had become difficult for charities in the past few years and donations had been harder to get.
Ms Mello said: “We have seen in the data that a number of non-profits have limited savings, and we certainly noticed difficulties with our cashflow.
She added the charity implemented a 15 per cent salary cut last February and reduced its health benefits in an effort to remain viable, but the savings were not enough to keep it afloat.
Ms Mello said the charity broke the news to its volunteers just before the closure was made public.
Ms Mello said: “I feel like half of Bermuda has been mentors.
“We have had people from all walks of life, Bermudians and non-Bermudians. Our youngest mentor is 15 and our oldest is in her eighties.”
She appealed to the public to support organisations, such as The Reading Clinic and Big Brothers Big Sisters, who had done so much for young people.
Ms Mello said: “Through building meaningful relationships, hundreds of volunteer mentors have worked to bring out the best in our students by providing them with the encouragement and support needed to succeed.
“We sincerely thank them for their dedication and continued efforts over the years.”
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