In 2003, ACCESO International’s volunteers collected educational materials for low-income and immigrant families of Latin American and Caribbean origin within the Ottawa area. These were distributed to eight families in December as holiday gifts through the Carlington Community Health Centre. This effort increased to 20 families the following year.
As of 2005, ACCESO established a long term relationship with the South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre. Our first project, entitled “Solidarity with Students: Making Education More Accessible for New Canadians”, focused on providing kits of grade-appropriate school supplies for new Canadian students from low-income families to help prepare them for their academic year. This included gifts of supplies, backpacks and gift certificates for shoes with the aim to help students participate in, and benefit more fully from, their classes, homework and social inclusion within the school environment. 65 kits were distributed that first year.
By 2007, the program, through drop-off spots in three locations, was able to provide 135 students with supplies and gift certificates for running shoes. We have continued the distribution of the kits for over 100 students every year since then. Shoes have now been replaced by personal care kits for grade 7-12 students once the need was identified in 2018. The name of the project has changed to “The Back-to-School Project” and it continues to give students a more equal start to each school year.