A meeting of minds has led to a creative collaboration that is changing the odds for children in Waterloo Region.
At House of Friendship’s virtual Annual General Meeting on June 15, Sandy Currie and Tobi Day-Hamilton shared the story of how Google, Launch Waterloo and House of Friendship came together to provide STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) camps to children living on low income, opening up doors of possibility and new opportunities, regardless of family income.
Sandy and Tobi shared how everyone came together around a table at Google to come up with new ways to reach children who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to learn the technology that is such an inherent part of our world.
“We wanted to help kids and break down the barriers to science and technology, because we know this is the future,” said Tobi. “We want to make sure that children are not just consumers, but creators of technology.”
With support from Google, and working with House of Friendship and other agencies to identify children who would benefit from the STEAM programming, Launch Waterloo started PD Day Camps in 2019.
A short video highlighted a “STEAM tournament” where children competed against each other while learning the science of flight, and how to manage forces like thrust and gravity. Together, the children created rockets with the tech they learned in an afternoon.
“We went away from that day, feeling so good about what we did for the kids,” said Tobi. “But that was just one day. So, how do we make that a lasting relationship with kids? Because if we are really going to change the odds, we have to do more than one day. We have to wrap around these kids and give them the support they need to be successful.”
Sandy shared how one shy student opened up after attending multiple camps, becoming more and more confident as time went by.
“It was heartwarming, to know we were making a little bit of a difference,” said Sandy.
Ultimately, Launch Waterloo and Google hope to create STEAM programming for children modelled after minor sports – with kids registering to join teams for a six-week season, complete with coaches. mentors and teammates.
“Kids need that support system. They need to know someone is cheering them on,” said Tobi.
“Together, I believe that we can change the odds for the most vulnerable in our community,” said Sandy.
Executive Director John Neufeld encouraged attendees to find the ways they can “change the world” in their own unique ways, by changing their proximity to the issue, changing the narrative, staying hopeful, and doing uncomfortable things.
“I believe that’s what we started to do in Waterloo Region five years ago, sitting around those tables together, trying to get proximity to the issues of homelessness and kids growing up in low-income neighbourhoods. This is how the magic happened.”
House of Friendship honoured this year’s recipients of the Buhr Legacy of Friendship – employee groups of local tech companies, represented by Axonify, Bonfire, Brock Solutions, Google and Vidyard. This recognition, named in honour of former executive director Martin Buhr and his family, is handed out every year to those who exemplify House of Friendship’s values of compassion, inclusion, justice, dignity and hope.
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