While most children are excited to go home at the end of the school day, the children involved in the Scarborough Cares program wish they could stay at school for as long as possible. This is because the Scarborough Cares program, run by program and outreach coordinator Kat Rizza, is a digital arts program that brings fun and creative projects to schools in Scarborough.
Scarborough Cares has been running for five years and is a mobile after school program that runs for eight-week cycles. The program is for children ages nine to 12. It targets communities where these kinds of services are either limited, or do not exist.
Scarborough Cares received $274,000 in funding over four years from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and is free for participating schools and families. However, the program is coming up to the end of the funding cycle.
“There are only so many government dollars to go around and there are really few places to turn in Scarborough.”
– Dan Marcoux
Dan Marcoux is the director of human resources and communication for Not Your Average Daycare, which is one of the partners of Scarborough Cares. He facilitates the grant for Scarborough Cares and ensures that all of the grant criteria are being met. According to him, trying to find alternative funding has not been an easy task.
“There are only so many government dollars to go around and there are really few places to turn in Scarborough,” he said.
Although they are able to apply for corporate funding, they are having trouble finding grants that do not come with a user fee. Marcoux said that they are hesitant to apply for these grants because they know that many of the families that Scarborough Cares services will simply not be able to afford to pay a fee.
According to Mary Gabriele, program coordinator for Not Your Average Daycare, this is the reality for many after-school programs in Scarborough.
“There is absolutely nothing available for a lot of families after school as an enrichment type of program that is affordable and in the children’s interest. There are a lot of kids whose needs are not being met after school,” Gabriele said.
Rizza said that it is really important that they keep the program going because it is one of the few arts-based after-school programs in Scarborough. They have received a lot of positive feedback.
“They are learning skills that they are not otherwise learning. They are not really getting that kind of education in school and digital literacy is very important. So we’re giving them a fun, safe place to be after school,” she said.
The artwork from the most recent Scarborough Cares cycle is being displayed at the Bluffs Gallery until Feb. 14.