Toronto Foundation Empowers Black Communities with Microgrants

Adjoba Messam

By Lincoln DePradine

The price of food is a serious concern for many Canadians. Perhaps, the situation is best exemplified by a current consumers’ protest known as the month-of-May boycott of the Loblaw supermarket chain. Chief among the group’s “demands” is that Loblaw lowers its prices by 15 percent.

So, when “Sista in Health’’ received a cash donation, the community organization knew that a portion would be allocated to groceries, as part of the programs it offers to Black women.

According to Sista in Health, program participants are provided with “in-person cooking sessions, tailored to Black women, to teach them how to prepare traditional foods healthier’’.

The goal of the sessions, the organization says, “is to combat the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease’’.

Sista in Health is among six Black-focused groups that each received $1,000 from Toronto Foundation and Volunteer Toronto.

Altogether, “Power of Us Microgrant Recipients’’, from Toronto Foundation and Volunteer Toronto, numbered 35 groups. The funded projects of the groups will be executed between now and December.

Volunteer Toronto, which has been in existence for more than 50 years, helps volunteers “find opportunities that make a positive difference in their community’’. It also assists “non-profit organizations and community groups run successful volunteer programs’’.

Toronto Foundation, for its part, says its role is to “connect philanthropy to community needs and opportunities’’; and also to “create a more fair and just society, where everyone can thrive, by mobilizing those with resources and the will, to partner with others’’.

Sharon Avery of Toronto Foundation

The Foundation said, in collaboration with its “fundholders’’, it granted $55.4 million to organizations in Toronto and across Canada, in the 2023 fiscal period.

Toronto Foundation and Volunteer Toronto, in advertising the “Power of Us’’ microgrant program, said it was targeted at “resident-led groups, grassroots organizations, and informal collectives across the City of Toronto, towards projects that help build social connections and increase civic participation.” 

Campaign organizers said “an independent selection committee comprising city residents, local leaders and members of the media made the final decisions on the 35 initiatives to receive the $1,000 grants’’.

“We’re thrilled with the overwhelming response to the microgrants,” said Sharon Avery, president and CEO, Toronto Foundation. “What’s clear to us is that Torontonians are hopeful, despite everything we’ve endured over the last several years; and that, across this city you can find neighbours reaching out to others, to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging here.” 

In addition to Sista in Health, the other grant recipients from the Black community are the Ghanaian Canadian Seniors Group; Odo Woman; Caribbean Community Connection; Hear This Black History in East End; and Sistaz in Sound, which is involved in the “creation of a safe space for women to learn and play music together, using the steel-tongue drum that appears throughout the Afro Diaspora, often played to connect people and provide sound healing’’.

“I believe that this microgrant is a wonderful way to bring attention to members of the community that are genuine about connecting with one another,’’ Adjoba Messam, founder and coordinator of Sistaz in Sound, told The Caribbean Camera. “I now have another fabulous addition to my music library of instruments that will boost the spirits of the families I serve.’’

Sherldine Tomlinson, speaking on behalf of Sista in Health, said “the grant acknowledges the importance of supporting marginalized communities in launching health-focused programs that might be inaccessible otherwise’’.

Tomlinson said Sista in Health is “committed to creating a supportive environment for Black women to explore health and wellness topics. The group organizes activities such as hiking, spa days, and reasoning sessions. This year, a cooking club has been introduced to promote the preparation of culturally relevant meals’’.

She said the $1,000 donation “could support Sista in Health by funding groceries, buying equipment for cooking demonstrations, and covering expenses for guest speakers’’.