As the lockdown moved into force across New Zealand, our Community Team reached out to those providing essential services and listened to their changing needs, and demand for services. We extended two current grant recipient contracts, and approved a new on-demand grant with haste, to make sure they had the resources to keep doing the valuable work they offer in this difficult time.
Blind Low Vision Foundation
We previously granted $30,000 to the Blind Low Vision Foundation (formerly Blind Foundation) last year to support the rollout of a voice activated information delivery channel (Alexa) to people with vision impairment. The rollout included visits to the users in their homes by volunteers to help with device installation, user training, and subsequent follow up. The aim was to encourage wider usage of the Internet to access general information among people with vision loss.
The foundation faced some major challenges, including limited Internet access at home for clients, particularly in the rural community, and not being able to help with set-up and run training in homes for Alexa. They have extended their call centre to 8am-8pm to accommodate additional support for new and existing clients.
Their project funding relies on an unsteady stream of small grants from the philanthropic community, with no financial backing from the government. We extended their current grant agreement with us and provided more funding to help this project urgently, so more low vision people could receive an Alexa ASAP.
In 2017/18, we gave a grant of $20,000 to the Skylight Trust for their project Resilience Hub & Training Modules, which supports children, young people, and their whānau to navigate through tough times. This project was to deliver trauma informed training to diverse and geographically isolated communities of New Zealand via the Internet.
The trust has seen an increased demand for mental health services due to COVID-19, following past spikes during the Christchurch Attacks and Canterbury earthquakes. With the current and future physical distancing requirements, the online delivery model established by Skylight was exactly what they needed. They have moved all of their face to face counselling services fully online. They also issued over 400 new COVID-19 e-support information packs to providers in the days leading up to lockdown.
Extra funding has been provided by InternetNZ to move more of its services into the online environment and tailor resources to fit.
Legal issues have become increasingly different since lockdown for employees and tenants. CitizenAI host AI bots - and Workbot and Rentbot needed to be rapidly updated with current and significant changes to both employment and tenancy law for Kiwis.
CitizenAI approached us in the week before lockdown noting these needs and the extra work they required to meet these changes. An on-demand grant was provided to them for this work.
Funding to the Blind Low Vision Foundation, Skylight Trust and CitizenAI was distributed from the remaining 2019/20 community funding, which was available before the 31st March.
This was seen as a useful contribution to the wider support needed by Kiwis using the Internet during lockdown and the COVID-19 situation, and we believe that it shows just how important an Internet for good is.