When the shelter-in-place order went into effect last March, our beloved Kidango staff found themselves having to adapt quickly to an environment that presented new challenges and needs for the children and families we serve. How could we help meet the extraordinary needs of our Kidango families, many who lost their jobs and were at risk of losing the roof over the heads and the food on their tables, while still providing Kidango services critical for children’s healthy development in the midst of self-isolation?
Soon after the shelter-in-place mandate went into effect, our team of early intervention specialists — who serve the families of infants and toddlers with special needs and developmental delays — reached out to families to determine their most pressing needs and how Kidango could help them during this challenging time. Our early intervention team found themselves comforting distraught and anxious families, while dealing with their own challenges related to the pandemic.
“ When hearing about how these families we personally work with weekly were losing their jobs, struggling to locate basic necessities, worrying about paying bills, let alone providing food for their children, we knew we needed to assist, ” – Ryann Palau, Kidango’s Assistant Director of Early Intervention Services (EIS)
Through these personal interactions, our EIS team found that out of the 200 families served by our EIS team, 53 families needed additional support and 29 families had dire needs including lack of food and other essential items due to economic hardships related to COVID-19.
Sreedevi (Sree) Kamath, a development specialist who has been with Kidango for six years, was determined to be a foundational support for each family she served. Each week, she coached parents, offering a listening ear as they shared their struggles, and was often the family’s only respite during the week.
“ COVID came without any warning. The families we work with, they lost their jobs. These are families and children we know closely through our interactions with them every week. To see them struggle for the basic essentials of life, it was terrible. ”
– Sreedevi Kamath, Kidango’s Developmental Specialist
Knowing that 29 families were in desperate need for food and necessities, Sree reached out to Ryann to see if she could initiate a fundraiser to benefit EIS families struggling due to the pandemic. Having never fundraised before, Ryann encouraged Sree to proceed and together they set a goal of raising $300 to help our EIS families most in need.
That Friday, Sree set up a PayPal account and spent all night and weekend calling her immediate friends, family, and network to ask them for their support. “We started off on Friday evening and all weekend I was on calls with my friends. That night, within two to three hours, we had $300 and by morning we had $800. By Monday we had raised $1,500. Every weekend I worked on getting more and more people.” said Sree. “We thought we couldn’t support 29 families so we aimed to provide additional assistance for 15 families in need. However, by week two, we were able to give essential supplies to all 53 families!”
People were captivated by Sree’s passion and were so inspired that they began recruiting their networks to further her efforts. Sree’s network began referring her to other community members and soon she had food and other donated essential items worth over $2,500, a local resident sewing over 80 masks for Kidango staff, a Fremont Girl Scout Troop holding a mini-fundraiser, church donations, gift cards for local grocery stores, and even a $10,000 grant from Albertsons Companies Foundation to purchase food and other essential items for our EIS families in need.
This extra effort made a huge difference for our families. A mother in the EIS program shared,
“ Today a care package arrived. Much needed wipes and diapers. There were some dinner things, enough to stretch a few dinners out of. There were snacks. There was paper for finger painting. This box meant so much to us. We have been scrambling to find more than the tiny expensive pack of diapers at the grocery store. Standing in line for hours is not an option for my family because if Lou were to catch COVID, he mostly likely would not make it through. I have not been able to work since March, because of the quarantine. Money is beyond tight. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Kidango for the care package for Luis. But just maybe you can see it in Luis’ smile. Thank you! ” – Kidango Parent
Beyond Shelter in Place
Sree has shown compassion and deepened her trust with our EIS families – truly embodying what Kidango represents and practices. Beyond EIS, Sree has opened the door with these community connections to strengthen our partnerships and to raise awareness and funds to support the critical needs of the children and families we serve. Due to her new connection with Albertsons Companies Foundation, Kidango was invited to apply for a $50,000 grant (a grant we subsequently received in July) to provide healthy meals for thousands of Kidango children during the summer.
Sree’s Supervisor, Ryann, comments that “Sree wholeheartedly took on the task of supporting these families’ basic needs for food and other essential items through fundraising; reaching out to connections in her immediate circle, as well as venturing into new relationships with other community partners that we hope will last long past Covid-19.”
Not only has Sree accomplished all these amazing feats during a pandemic, she is humble and is appreciative of Ryann – who she says she couldn’t have done the fundraiser without her support. Sree’s main takeaway? The unbelievable empathy and the willingness to help that she’s seen in her network, community members, and complete strangers.
We are deeply grateful and appreciative of Sree’s inspiring work. Thank you, Sree!