Summarizing all the pandemic craziness that Vecinos Unidos endured in 2021 (or: a 2021 year-end update)

It’s about time we shared a 2021 year-end update! 

If we’re being honest, 2020 was the year that really deserved an update, with the pandemic in full swing. But we were too busy figuring out how to adapt our program and keep things running smoothly, so admittedly it didn’t feel like a good time for an update.

I’m proud to say I think we’ve finally overcome the hardest of it all. (Crossing my fingers as I write this… please don’t throw any more curveballs our way!) We have accomplished a lot this year, including onboarding an entire team of new volunteers, welcoming several new children into the program, and strengthening our leadership team.

Pivoting to a virtual learning model

In January 2021, we began our first-ever virtual program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was really difficult for us. Many of our children don’t have access to computers, and it took some time to set up a routine that worked well for them and their families. We paired volunteers individually with students, and the same pair would meet every week for the remainder of the school year.

Despite the challenges of working virtually, there were some huge benefits! Our volunteers got to really know their students, and the students received very individualized help every week.

Planning the future of Vecinos Unidos

In the spring, we elected a new president, Maria Posey, to the Vecinos Unidos Board of Directors. Maria brought a much-needed outside perspective and immediately took the helm to help us identify and work towards our strategic goals. She motivated us into action and has helped us stay focused on our long-term plan.

Slowly, but surely, working towards a normal in-person program

During the summer, we continued a virtual learning program to help the kids prepare for the upcoming school year. When Fairfax County Public Schools decided to return in-person in the fall, we followed suit and returned to in-person sessions at the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center.

The biggest challenge we faced during this time was a lack of volunteers. Because COVID was still such a significant concern, only one of our former volunteers returned in-person. We started off by doing what we could, and decided to have our program just two days a week to start.

…And then we began recruiting volunteers like crazy! We onboarded a recruitment assistant, posted announcements, cold-called organizations, and we attended a recruitment event until finally it seemed like we had enough help.

Was this finally the end!? No, of course not!

We had so many volunteers that we suddenly didn’t have enough kids!  But there is such a huge need for what Vecinos Unidos offers, we knew it was only a matter of time before we brought on more children. With our longstanding ties to the community, it wasn’t difficult to reach out to schools and organizations to let them know we had openings for more children. We opened up to three days a week and spread the news.

Now, finally, we have registered several new children and expect more to join shortly. 

The rest will be a story for 2022.

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