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‘Real-life Bermuda that makes you cry’

Helping others: volunteers at a 2020 Grateful Bread event. The charity’s new fundraising campaign, Families Supporting Families, has suspended its monthly fundraising dinners, but its organisers are still eager to help. The group has raised more than $17,500 since FSF went live last week

At the best of times, Wendy struggles to make ends meet. Her husband died two years ago leaving her to raise their seven-year-old son on her own. When Covid-19 shut the island down at the end of March, her part-time work evaporated and finding the money for rent and groceries became a real problem. Jane is also having a hard time. She is a single mother with four children whose ages range from ten months to 10, one of whom has physical disabilities that require intense physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Although hired to work part-time at a restaurant in January, she lost the job when social-distancing measures were put into effect. Now she needs help with groceries, rent and laundry. Wendy and Jane are getting help from Families Supporting Families, a fundraising campaign set up by community action initiative Grateful Bread.Social-distancing rules meant Grateful Bread had to put its monthly fundraising dinners for needy people on hold, but its organisers were still eager to help. The group has raised more than $17,500 since FSF went live last week.Director Juliana Snelling said that with the end of shelter-in-place there would be families considering which takeout menu to order from as others wondered how to put food on the table at all.“The people who are in the top third of income brackets, who are not affected at all, need to be doing their part to help,” she said.The programme works in conjunction with the Coalition for the Protection of Children, which puts together an anonymous personal profile detailing circumstances and needs.FSF then sends out the profiles to Grateful Bread supporters and other potential donors. Ms Snelling felt the profiles gave donors something to connect with. The coalition’s Rachel Dill said many families have very basic needs.“They are struggling to figure out how they will get these items on a daily basis,” she said. “When we think about the psychological impact this may have on an individual, we’re talking about a high level of mental stress.“The longer businesses are closed, the longer that families are operating with no income. Sadly, we do not know if landlords will provide financial relief and we are certain that the Belco bill will still come.”The families were typically working, or aggressively looking for work, before Covid-19 hit the community. At the moment they are not receiving financial assistance from Government, although some are in the process of applying.“We aren’t given a reason why they aren’t getting unemployment assistance,” Ms Snelling said. “One of them said they hadn’t been working for long enough to qualify.”A minimum donation of $50 is requested, and donors can indicate on the financial transaction exactly which family they want the money to go to and for what. “This is real-life Bermuda that makes you cry,” Ms Snelling said. “I am so grateful that my life hasn’t been financially affected and this is a direct way to give.”Ms Outerbridge said it isn’t just privileged people who have been donating. “A friend of mine who helps out at Grateful Bread every month, has just been told that she is not getting paid any more,” she said. “But, she is still going to donate to this cause, because she is still way better off than these families. Not all of us are being paid, but we may have some savings behind us and can afford to give something.”A $50 donation would pay for half of one family’s laundry needs for a month, Ms Snelling said. On Monday, Deloitte donated $15,000 to the campaign. Rachelle Frisby, partner and chair of Deloitte’s corporate social responsibility committee said: “This critical donation towards supporting ten Bermudian families in need falls underneath one of Deloitte’s four charitable pillars ­— children. It also aligns with Deloitte’s multi-pronged, global approach to its Covid-19 response, focusing on making an everyday impact through direct donations to support non-profit organisations and other community partners in need. As we continue to understand the toll that this pandemic has had in Bermuda and across the globe, we are happy to directly support these families who require immediate relief.”Jennifer Wilson said she and her family had always been Grateful Bread supporters and were happy to make life a little easier for someone else. She was particularly moved by Wendy, identified by FSF as “The Bermudiana Family”.She said: “I thought it was amazing they put together the notes on each family.“I can’t imagine being in that situation. My husband, Ryan, and I are fortunate that we are able to work from home and still be paid.“Ryan works in an architecture firm and his office has gone down to four days instead of five days. Generally, we are able to make what we were making before. I can’t imagine being in position of worrying about paying rent and being able to feed your family.”She shared the information with her children — Joshua, 12, and Ryley, 10 — and had them help in choosing a family to support. “I think they were just proud that we could do it,” Ms Wilson said.Another donor, Kyle James, said it’s not about the amount of money you give.“Sometimes it is genuinely the thought that counts,” said the business development manager at the Bermuda Business Development Agency. “Doing this, people will know that someone out there cares enough about them to make sure they have something to eat.“I am employed. I work hard, but I think we are put in these positions so that we can assist. The community should be supporting one another.”• For more information on Families Supporting Families: jsnelling@canterburylaw.bm, souterbridge@canterburylaw.bm, 705-2672. Pledges can be made at https://bit.ly/2L19toQ. Make payment to The Coalition for the Protection of Children HSBC account #010 411486 002