Jaku Konbit and Flo’s Seniors
Ottawa Black Senior’s Virtual Living Network (OBSVLN) Program
The Ottawa Black Seniors Virtual Living Network Project achieved its goals and objectives within the dedicated timelines of February to April 2021. The Network continued to build upon the established track record of leadership, knowledge, program excellence and good stewardship of Jaku Konbit and Flo’s Seniors. Both organizations have been actively involved in enhancing the needs of Black seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March 2020.
The project reached its midway mark, by accomplishing the following:
Video testimonials from Black seniors:
This video compilation initiative ran from March 15 to April 30, 2021. Seniors gave testimonials of their experiences, and the services they have received via online programs over the last 12 months in Ottawa. The videos also highlighted the significance of the United Nation’s Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), the historical roles of Black seniors from Nanny of the Maroons to Harriet Tubman’s vision of creating a nursing home for the poor and old in her community, as well as, local community Black organizations that provide meaningful support and services to seniors.
Surveys were administered to approximately one hundred Black seniors of which eighty-two offered insights and reflections on pre-existing structural inequities and vulnerabilities that this demographic is facing prior to, and throughout the pandemic. To support the survey participants, a list of various services, organizations and resources in Ottawa and across Ontario were compiled and shared with the seniors to assist in addressing or managing issues that they raised.
Outreach to Social Networks:
Within the scope of the project we have discovered many more organizations within Ontario that are working within the same scope to provide assistance to Black seniors and their families. By undertaking research through community networks and databases, and collaborating with community leaders, we were able to identify and compile a list of these organizations such as Jaku Konbit and Flo’s Seniors. As much as reaching out and connecting is great, it is our hope that when COVID restrictions ease, we can have in-person meetings with the other organizations and develop a larger framework. The document is evergreen and will be updated periodically.
Community Leaders’ Interviews:
Our project also included interviews with members of Black History Ottawa (BHO), African Canadian Association of Ottawa (ACAO), as well as, the Innovation Culture Group out of Toronto to talk about their initiatives and accomplishments in the community.
Through our continued outreach, we are fortunate to have the assistance of Bronson Centre, Ottawa Black Business Alliance and the hosts of University of Ottawa’s community radio station CHUO 89.1 FM. Many of these interviews were aired on CHUO ‘s program, “Black on Black”, with the support of its co-hosts.
Enhancement of existing programs:
The Virtual Living Network has enhanced a number of its ongoing programs by integrating additional initiatives such as Jaku Konbit’s, Call Me! Let’s Chat, and the Bronson Safe Open Programs (a collaboration of Flo’s Seniors, Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa and Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa) (See Annex A).
Our final production of the Ottawa Black Seniors Virtual Living Network program took place on the 5th of May, 2021.
Ottawa Black Seniors Virtual Living Network (OBSVLN)
A project made possible through the Seniors Community Grant Program
The project concluded with a video production (The Ottawa Black Senior’s Virtual Living Network) on the 5th of May 2021, where Jaku Konbit and Flo’s Seniors presented a synopsis of the resources such as food delivery, exercise programs, support for virtual activities, health and information services for Black Seniors in the National Capital Region within Ontario. This synopsis included Black seniors sharing their stories, testimonials, the support they received, the service providers and community leaders. The platform used for the video was StreamYard with Bia Media. We shared the video on Facebook and YouTube for the community’s viewing pleasure.
With support from the community, Jaku Konbit and Flo’s Seniors we were able to successfully complete the research needed to focus on the unique needs of Blacks seniors in and around the Ottawa community. This included unique studies about experiences of other Black organizations in Ontario, a history study of successful collaborations, and the design and testing of both safe in-person social inclusion activities and digital casting to more isolated at-risk seniors.
Our first showing of the production yielded 113 views, through Facebook and YouTube. For community members who missed the viewings they can be found at the following links:
BIA Media Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/biamedianetwork
BIA Media YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKlK1NNhtvuYrBpN9GIP3GA
Jaku Konbit Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jaku.konbit/
Flo’s Seniors YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG4WQatSOM8qxX5o92VLzkw
Annex A: Online Seniors Programs
Call Me! Let’s Chat
Jaku Konbit “Call me! Let’s Chat” online seniors program continues to connect seniors to the community and increase opportunities for them to participate in community events, access to cultural food as well as combating isolation. The program engaged Black seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic by getting them to participate in activities such as chair exercise, games, sing along, educational and cultural information session online from the safety of their home. We also include a phone network for regular wellness check-ins to make sure they are okay and are able to socialize with other seniors.
Bronson Safe Open – Flo’s Seniors in partnership with Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa and Psychiatric Survivors of Ottawa
An exciting new collaboration between Bronson Centre organizations to help people in our community feel less lonely and more connected. The weekly programs consist of various activities that promote self-care along with health and fitness through: Tai Chi For Health, Caribbean Fit Fete (Get Fit, Island Style” cardio workout), sharing the songs you love, Chair Yoga, Dancing with Nubia. New to the program is Monday afternoon chats with Alicia. Each month the program hosts a Social Tea which brings in various guest speakers from the community.
Meal Initiative: Jaku Konbit
This is a unique program that seeks to combat food insecurity among African Caribbean Black seniors, by partnering with local small businesses to provide culturally sensitive and diverse weekly meals that are healthy, well-proportioned and free for seniors. This is something that is vital to our community as Covid-19 has prevented individuals from obtaining food that they are familiar with and that is appealing to their taste.
We utilize our strong connections to local small businesses to provide African and Caribbean meals as well as those that provide African and Caribbean snacks and treats. We feel that through this initiative we will not only give back to the community but also provide some comfort to seniors who are feeling isolated and unable to get their groceries and food as per normal.
The Ottawa Black Senior’s Virtual Living Network (OBSVLN)
The OBSVLN provides collaborative efforts of Jaku Konbit and Flo’s Seniors. This includes regular monthly guest speakers on a number of relevant and important topic such as: African History Class, COVI-19 Vaccination Information Session for Black Seniors, Mental Health Workshop, Book Reading, Foot Care Workshop, Mindfulness, Nutrition, Emergency Preparedness, Soundtracks of My Life , as well open session for games, puzzles and share information on current events.