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Annual Report 2020

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Amidst a worldwide pandemic and nationwide lockdowns, the Mothers Matter Centre (MMC) celebrated its 20th anniversary of making mothers matter.

After 20 years of persistence, optimism, and focus, we grew our Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program from a single HIPPY site in Vancouver in 2000 to a vibrant, national organization: The Mothers Matter Centre. Today, we have 26 HIPPY sites across Canada and a remarkable portfolio of innovations.

We thank our federal and provincial government funders, foundations, and many individuals who have invested in our shared vision: to encourage the full and active participation of all women in Canadian society. The HIPPY sites breathe life into the organization, and we are grateful to them for allowing us to serve our country's most vulnerable.

After two years of serving as Chair of the Board of the MMC, it is with a sense of both pride and nostalgia that I will be stepping aside as of the Annual General Meeting in November. We have accomplished a lot, but there is much more to do. As I congratulate Bruce Flexman, our incoming Chair, I wish him continued success and know that I turn over leadership to one of our strongest supporters and hardest workers. I will continue as an active member of the Board, providing support in any way that I can.

I wish to thank all our supporters, our Board, and dedicated staff for all they have given – and continue to give – to make this a truly remarkable organization.  
Thank you to all.

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In March 2020, the MMC faced the challenges of the global pandemic and closed its offices, quickly transitioning HIPPY into a virtual program. 

Through continuous discussions with HIPPY Home Visitors, who were in direct contact with the most vulnerable and isolated HIPPY families, we understood and responded to the growing needs that emerged with health concerns, school closures, lay-offs, and forced isolation. The MMC had already built the foundation for national online training, and was, therefore, in a position to respond immediately to the social distancing regulations. We quickly developed a full suite of additional programs and adapted them to the virtual space. These responses were successful. We retained 800 out of 1200 families, most of whom expressed that the MMC was a much-needed lifeline for their family. 

Amidst the pandemic constraints, the MMC and its partners continued to grow and innovate programs. The MMC onboarded six additional HIPPY sites in small, urban centres and provided virtual set-up support and pre-service training. We also welcomed a new Director of French Programs to expand French HIPPY in Canada. We adapted and implemented HIPPY Germany’s play-based program designed for 18- to 36- month-old children into Supporting Mothers and Raising Toddlers (SMART). Through our train-the-trainer program, we prepared HIPPY Coordinators to be National Trainers. We also advanced our research agenda to include three incredible research projects to better understand the mothers we serve and our programs' impact on families. 

With renewed confidence, we reiterate our commitment to serving the most isolated and vulnerable families in Canada and are looking forward to another year of inspiring success.

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At the MMC, we know that isolation takes a toll on families. The essential COVID-19 social distancing measures have escalated the necessity for human-centred connections and tactical support services between HIPPY Home Visitors and already isolated mothers and their families.

The MMC and its partner Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) reported that increased challenges are due to several factors:

Many depended on survival jobs, which are first to be cutSubstandard housing was overcrowdedFood insecurity increased Pre-existing health conditions were exacerbatedThe feelings of loneliness and fear increasedThe risk of domestic violence roseLanguage barriers, combined with insufficient knowledge of Canadian systems, made it difficult to learn about and access government assistance designed to assist people through the COVID-19 crisis.

Recognizing the urgent need to sustain contact and support HIPPY families, the MMC and HIPPY staff across the country responded with a creative suite of materials. Responses included hard and virtual copies of the parent-child curriculum, instructional tools, tutorials on virtual home visiting, and parent-child extension activities, such as the Stay ‘N’ Play series. 

The MMC and its partner SPOs provided several options to ensure that Home Visitors had the flexibility to respond to unique family situations regarding access to technology, literacy, and resources.

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HIPPY Nanaimo, British ColumbiaCentral Vancouver Island Multicultural Society

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When faced with the prospects of a new program year impacted by social distancing requirements and evolving guidelines from Canadian health authorities, the MMC recognized an opportunity to pursue a timely, progressive, and unprecedented initiative: distribution of a tablet to every HIPPY family.

The MMC purchased and delivered 1,150 tablets to ensure that mothers across the country could continue to support their preschoolers' educational success. The tablet campaign was successful, thanks to financial support from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), donations from private citizens, contributions from Board members, and emergency response grants.  

By making HIPPY available virtually, mothers can now remain connected to their Home Visitors, other families, and their communities at large. Additionally, since many schools have been relying more heavily on an online format for course materials, providing these tablets to families has already helped ensure that already vulnerable children do not fall even further behind in an increasingly digital world. 

Our most sincere appreciation to everyone who helped support our fundraising campaign to get tablets into the hands of every HIPPY family!

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Canada’s Prairie and Yukon regions annually welcome refugees and newcomers to mid-sized urban centres and small towns where they often find themselves underserviced and isolated. Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has recognized the need to support their settlement by funding six new HIPPY sites:

1. Edmonton, Alberta: The Somali Canadian Women and Children Association (SCWCA) now delivers HIPPY to diverse families who speak English, Arabic, Somali, Oromo, and other Eritrean languages. 

2. Regina, Saskatchewan: Regina Immigrant Women Centre hosts the HIPPY program in southern Saskatchewan.

3. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Saskatoon Open Door Society will offer HIPPY in Saskatoon's rural communities of Warman and Martinsville.

4. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: The first HIPPY program in the NWT will operate out of the Northwest Territories Literacy Council.

5. Winkler, Manitoba: The Regional Connections Immigrant Services will deliver the HIPPY program to small rural communities.

6. With the generous funding of the VanCity foundation and West Vancouver Foundation, Indigenous HIPPY welcomes back Squamish First Nation. Through the Ayas Menmen Child & Family Services, the Squamish Nation delivers several family programs that offer parents, and their children support services. HIPPY is now one of them.

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HIPPY Winnipeg, ManitobaMosaic Family Resource Network

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The MMC’s new Director of French Programs, Monique Best, is invested in facilitating newcomer and refugee families’ access to the HIPPY program in French. During her time as a HIPPY Coordinator at Vanier Community Centre in Ottawa, Monique has seen HIPPY's impact on parents who fully engage with their Home Visitor and the curriculum. Until this year, few sites offered HIPPY in French, a factor that is about to change. 

As a francophone who has worked with a French Public School Board as a Settlement Worker in Schools (SWIS), Monique believes that HIPPY should be available to as many families as possible, francophone or otherwise.

French ECE programs like HIPPY set the pace for parents' decisions regarding their child's future education. Access to French programs means that minority communities can contribute to preserving Canada's second official language, and parents are more inclined to enroll their children in French schools.

In the context of a predominantly Anglophone society, offering the HIPPY program in French protects and promotes the French language and culture and gives children an excellent start in appreciating the benefits of a broader cultural outlook, which also leads to an essential qualification for future employment.

In addition, French-speaking immigrant women will have the opportunity to grow and integrate into Canadian society through the HIPPY program. Monique describes the program as a win-win-win model where the children, the mothers and families, and the Home Visitors all benefit.

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Monique Best
Director of Francophone ProgramsMothers Matter Centre

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SMART Mother and child 

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Supporting Mothers and Raising Toddlers (SMART) is a play-based learning program for mothers of children aged 18 to 36 months. The pilot was a 30-week program, administered over a year that included 78 structured, engaging, and easy-to-follow activities to stimulate toddlers’ imaginations and encourage them to learn and bond with their family.

Mothers appreciated the program for teaching them the skills to engage their kids effectively through play. They felt that, even if their toddlers had some toys, they did not have the capacity as mothers to engage creatively with their children. Viewing play as learning and using it to build skills in children was new to some mothers. SMART enabled mothers to play with children, which led to increased bonding and individual attention for each child.

The SMART pilot confirmed that, with the right skills, tools, and confidence, vulnerable and isolated mothers can effectively engage their toddlers through play-based learning. 

SMART is an adaptation of Opstapje, a play-based learning initiative created in Germany by IMPULS, for which the MMC has acquired the license and adapted for use in Canada. The program is open to all Canadian organizations.

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In the summer of 2020, MMC offered the Train-the-Trainer Program to all HIPPY Coordinators across Canada who wished to improve their teaching and facilitation skills. 

This program focused on enabling students with the skills and tools to offer National Professional Development Training in English and French.

The Train-the-Trainer program consisted of 18 two-hour modules delivered twice a week over eight weeks. 

Coordinators from 11 HIPPY sites attended the program and did a practicum for three weeks. The program finished on August 30, 2020. 

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Research and evaluation are central to the work of the MMC. Research remains a priority as it allows the organization to engage directly with, and seek input from, the communities we serve. The main objective of MMC Research is to receive input and ensure that our programs are consistently adapted to families’ evolving needs.

The MMC collaborated with the East Vancouver Expansion Project on the Navigation Project (NAV).  It is a participatory action research study that addresses the ongoing impacts of past and existing public policies that systematically discriminate against Indigenous peoples in Canada leading to social isolation and disengagement.

The MMC has also continued to expand its collaborations with academic institutions, recently partnering with Simon Fraser University to investigate child outcomes for HIPPY participants. 

Another research project, with Guelph University, is exploring health outcomes for refugee families at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association HIPPY site. 

Both academic research initiatives, which will carry into the 2020-2021 program year, will provide new and vital insights into the HIPPY programs' impact on participating families' development and wellbeing.

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HIPPY Vancouver, British ColumbiaImmigration Services Society of British Columbia

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