Sistema Toronto has partnered with local telecomm company Beanfield Metroconnect to provide laptops, tablets, and data to families in low-income communities across Toronto.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown began in mid-March, Sistema Toronto has been running its Sistema Online Sessions (SOS) initiative digitally, however it was clear that not all students had equal access. Sistema Toronto programming typically takes place in schools in the communities of Jane-Finch, Parkdale, and East Scarborough, and works to lift vulnerable children and their families out of poverty through free music and social education. For many families in the Sistema Toronto program, the inequalities they face only worsened as the pandemic struck and everything moved online.
Sistema Toronto reached out to telecomm company Beanfield Metroconnect for support, and the two organizations agreed on a $10,000 partnership to support Sistema’s most at-risk families. This support has allowed Sistema Toronto to purchase 35 devices, 5 data plans, and cover the cost of 3 WIFI package upgrades to ensure their students have access not only to their online music lessons, but also their e-learning for school and platforms for keeping in touch with their friends and families while in isolation.
“When we began our SOS initiative we were concerned about access for our students,” said Christie Gray, Executive Director of Sistema Toronto. “We found that about 80% of our students did have access to at least one device and internet connection, however many families still faced barriers to connecting. Some had no internet access or devices at all, others had one device shared between multiple members of the family or outdated devices missing certain key capabilities. We’re so incredibly thankful that Beanfield Metroconnect stepped in to support our most vulnerable families during an already uncertain and difficult time. The need to stay connected is more important now than ever, and thanks to Beanfield our community spirit continues to thrive digitally until we can get together in person once again”.
"We are proud to support such a great community initiative. We believe in the power of connectivity, especially during these times. Our youth deserve to remain connected, and have equal access to educational resources and we are happy we could work alongside Sistema to help make that happen," said Dan Armstrong, Founder and CEO of Beanfield Metroconnect.
The SOS initiative utilizes video conferencing software to provide private one-on-one and small group string lessons as well as group theory, choir, and percussion sessions designed for each level of the program, and students can also engage in daily trivia on the non-profit’s Instagram account.
One Sistema Toronto parent gave their praise to the online program: “Thank you [Sistema] for moving so quickly to create a space for my daughter to continue to learn, connect with her classmates and add a sense of normalcy during a time that is far from normal. I have always considered being part of the Sistema program a gift but I believe It is even more so now. Please know that all your time, energy and dedication to these kids is so appreciated.”
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