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'On the front line' with Head & Hands

Supported by Centraide, the non-profit provides free health and legal clinics, counselling and other services for Montreal youth
November 15, 2017
By J. Latimer / Kenneth Gibson

Rhonda Buckland: “We don’t give advice — we listen.” Rhonda Buckland: “We don’t give advice — we listen.” | Photo courtesy of Head & Hands

Concordia student Mitchell Cousineau hasn’t been volunteering at Head & Hands for long.

He began working with the community group — a non-profit organization committed to the physical and mental health of Montreal’s youth — during an internship for an interdisciplinary minor he is completing to complement his BA in Women’s Studies.

Cousineau appreciated his experience so much that he stayed on as a volunteer with the organization. It’s one of more than 350 agencies and projects that benefit from the Centraide of Greater Montreal campaign, which raised $55 million in 2016.

Cousineau is confident that his experience with Head & Hands will provide a real boost to his career goal of working with youth organizations in the community sector.

‘Core funding lets us do our thing’

Concordia has been fundraising for Centraide from the beginning. On May 10, 1975, Centraide Montreal was born. A few months later, the umbrella organization, which replaced the Federated Appeal of Greater Montreal, launched its first annual fundraising campaign.

Only one year old at the time, Concordia was a part of it. More than four decades later, the Concordia United Way/Centraide Campaign is still thriving. It raised $187,000 in 2016 — 98 per cent of its goal.

Andrea Clarke (BSc 09, MSc 12, MBA 16), Head & Hands director and Concordia alumna, describes Centraide’s funding of the non-profit as vital.

“It’s 15 to 20 per cent of our budget, so it’s a key relationship. Plus, that money is core funding, so it’s not earmarked for a specific program, meaning that it goes wherever we have the greatest need,” says Clarke.

“Centraide trusts us to manage how we deliver the services and they provide us with data and demographics on how the city is changing.”

Laura MacDonald (BFA 03, BComm 16), volunteer and board president for Head & Heads, explains how rare it is for a non-profit to get core funding.

“Donors mostly want to fund projects — not what they think of as ‘overhead.’ That core funding lets us do our thing, running programs and coordinating all the volunteers,” says MacDonald, another alumna with multiple degrees from Concordia.

Health and legal clinics, plus after-school programs

As a community organization committed to helping 12 to 25-year-olds in Montreal, Head & Hands takes a harm-reductive, holistic and non-judgmental approach. They currently have 29 employees, 14 of whom are full time, serving just over 7,000 clients. The services, all free, include a health and legal clinic, individual and family counselling, a street-work program, a young parents program, tutoring, an emergency food pantry and more.

Although closely tied to the neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG), Head & Hands welcomes people from all over Montreal.

Rhonda Buckland has worked there as a full-time social counsellor for 16 years. She has also been a part-time lecturer at Concordia in applied human sciences and human relations for 18 years, teaching courses in family communications and program planning and design.

“I see many student clients at Head & Hands for a wide range of issues,” says Buckland (Cert. 94, BA 97, MA 03). “They can be experiencing anxiety or depression. They can be in a relationship crisis. They can be in a career crisis. The main thing is that we don’t give advice. We listen and help students sort through it.”

Hand in hand

Clarke adds that Concordia and Head & Hands have a close relationship, as well as a history of collaboration.

“We work together at all different levels: we speak at Cinema Politica Concordia screenings, we work with Concordia students for our peer-based sex-ed program, The Sense Project, we rent from The Dish Project and we work with the Centre for Gender Advocacy to amplify each other’s messages and support each other’s events.”

Find out how you can support Concordia’s 2017 United Way/Centraide Campaign.


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