Updates from African Canadian Association of Ottawa (ACAO)September 2, 2021
By Hector Addison
The African Canadian Association of Ottawa’s mission is to unite people of African descent and promote the welfare of their community while encouraging greater participation in civic matters. Below are updates on key initiatives currently underway.
Mental Health Initiatives:
Mental health in the Black community continues to be an issue and given the trend it is going to be for a long time. We have cultural, religious, and racial interplay that often stifle people’s initiative to seek help. Since its inception, ACAO has been at the forefront advocating for better health outcomes for the black communities here in Ottawa and Canada. There are several activities we pursue to realize the goals of our mental health program.
- Money and Mental Health Series – ACAO delivers monthly workshops on how money and mental health are related and solving for money is sure way of reducing family stressors that result in profound health, emotional and psychological issues.
- Joy Workshop Series: Addressing Mental Health through Art Therapy – This 12 – week cohort workshop series is designed to help people going through severe mental health crisis to find joy and friendship through art. This is delivered by professional Art Therapists and Social workers. The pilot virtual program was so successful that we want to duplicate it in person at ACAO’s new office facility at 40 Colonnade Rd N.
Community Development Program:
Since 2016, community development has been the hallmark of ACAO. Recognizing that our community is the most disadvantaged in many ways, we needed to work with partners to provide affordable housing, newcomer services and others.
- COVID-19 Food Relief – Since the pandemic began, we have delivered over 500 food boxes consisting of staples the community eat. Each food box lasts a family of 4, one month or more. For families who had been hit with effect of COVID-19 pandemic, and newcomers, this is indeed a relief that puts smiles on their faces. To date, we have invested over $145,000 in this program. We were able to procure and distribute 4000 customized masks to the community in addition to the relief food boxes. So far, approximately 2300 people have benefited from this program alone. Funding for this program has come from government, a private foundation, SWCHC/City of Ottawa and individual donors through our website.
This year had been busy for our integration committee. They have participated in numerous marches to demand the government honours its promise of giving Permanent Residence status to refugees and newcomers who have shoulder the pandemic efforts to keep us all safe.