While much is unknown about how our communities, businesses, and schools will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Durham Children’s Initiative( DCI) is committed to supporting families to and through these challenging times. . Along with many other providers across the State and at the guidance of state and local officials, we transitioned our staff to work from home; however, our programs and support of families have not stopped.

With support from our partners, our team has worked to distribute basic needs every week since business and organizations closed in Mid-March. Thank you to our generous partners, donors and funders – nearly 250 DCI and Partners for Youth Opportunity (PYO) families have received food boxes and a grocery store gift card/certificate each week.. We have also provided diapers to approximately 90 families and computers to more than 100 families. Pairing gifts cards with food from partnering agencies gives families the opportunity to prioritize their own needs and spend the gift card in whatever way is most useful to them, whether it be to pay a bill, put gas in their car, or buy diapers, additional food, or games/educational materials for their children.

For twelve weeks, the DCI team has worked tirelessly to transition our entire portfolio of programs to virtual settings through Facebook and YouTube live. Suquey Castillo-Lopez hosts our bilingual Story Hour, every Friday morning at 10am on Facebook Live. Normally, Story Hour is a 1 hour parent-child interactive reading, music (singing and dancing) and creative arts weekly activity for families with children ages birth-5. Begun as a program for Spanish speaking families, it has transitioned into a bilingual hour Our STEAM, Youth Leadership Council, and Parent Cafe programs are all currently on YouTube. Some of our Parent Café topics include working from home during the pandemic, how to handle stress and worker’s rights about unemployment eligibility. 

The DCI preschool team is continuing to implement their curriculum and are sending out learning materials to families. We are also implementing a program called 1Book/1DCI on Wednesdays, which gives families with children in grades 3-5 the opportunity to read a book together and discuss it with other families. The ultimate goal of this program is to have children read 12 books, and ultimately, transition from learning to read to reading to learn.

Through it all, we have maintained social-distancing, strict safety protocols to ensure the safety of our staff and families, including wearing gloves and masks, among other strategies. When the families arrive for the delivery pickup, they are asked to pop their trunk as they pull through to ensure that there is no contact. In cases where we must make personal deliveries, we drop the delivery on the porch, ring the doorbell or knock on the door, and back away. 

We are forever grateful for our partners who are continuously support our efforts: PORCH-Durham, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, the Diaper Bank of NC, Swing Pals, the Durham YMCA, Triangle Ecycle, the Mead Family Foundation, Truist, Duke Energy, Duke University, the United Way of the Greater Triangle, and many individual donors.