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Consequences and creativity in the times of coronavirus

Oak Foundation Denmark / Partner story

Photo by Ava Coploff on Unsplash

Communities need to work for everyone, where the roadmap to opportunity and systems that protect people are clear and available to all. We provide support to organisations in Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands that provide innovative solutions to improve the lives of socially vulnerable and marginalised groups at the community level.

We understand that social change takes time and is not a linear process. We believe that we can achieve social change by supporting broad, professional, holistic, and innovative approaches that tackle issues at the root.

To this end, most of Oak Foundation Denmark’s grant-making includes support for strategies and approaches that address challenges at community level. We also contribute to strengthening or building organisational capacity.

We provide funding to both large and grassroots organisations. As part of our strategy, we support organisations that help vulnerable and homeless people, and we realise that this was needed more than usual in 2020, due to the Covid-19 crisis. The following article illustrates the work that was carried out in 2020 in direct response to Covid-19.

For vulnerable people in Denmark and Greenland, the coronavirus crisis served as a prism which magnified pre-existing challenges. Our partners rose to meet the needs of society’s most vulnerable people.

During lockdown, Oak Foundation Denmark gave emergency grants to 25 organisations working with people in need in Denmark and Greenland. We provided support to those experiencing homelessness, as well as towards the construction of an emergency shelter in Greenland, various initiatives in psychiatric wards, and coronavirus testing.

Some of the partners we supported during the lockdown include: Gadejuristen, a group of lawyers that work with people experiencing street homelessness; Brugernes Akademi, an association that works to create better conditions for people who take drugs in Denmark; Kirkens Korshær, which provides shelter for the socially vulnerable; and Hope Now, which works to combat human trafficking.

We wanted to know whether our funding was helping, and we also hoped to better understand people’s experiences of lockdown. To this end we funded a study, which gathered information from 32 social organisations and projects in Denmark working with highly vulnerable people. These include people experiencing homelessness, sex workers, drug users, the mentally ill, victims of violence, the incarcerated and others. We asked the following questions: How well did the emergency funds meet their needs? What are the consequences of a full-scale lockdown of society? What are the relevant experiences and conclusions to draw upon, should a similar situation arise in the future?

The report, called User perspectives –Covid-19 highlights how the Covid-19 lockdown measures had serious consequences for vulnerable members of society. Sadly, several people described how the bonds of trust with community members were broken due to physical distancing. This makes sense as it is clear to most people that personal encounters are central to building lasting relationships.

However, the report also points to some positive results of the lockdown. Oak Denmark’s partners gained valuable experience through virtual conversations and social media efforts. In addition, many activities were held outdoors: walks, including counselling, communal meals, and other outdoor activities, which affirmed and strengthened social relations. The increased focus on hygiene and nutrition has also led to improved health.

“We learned to take long walks during the confinement, for our mental, relational, and physical wellbeing, and for fitness´ sake,” said one participant from Hellebro, a shelter for young people.

Several organisations will continue to implement activities started during the lockdown. These include: the establishment and reinforcement of emergency planning; the development of contingency plans and crisis management strategies; and the increased collaboration with other organisations. “Because of the restrictions, the charities had to change to takeaway and also packing groceries for families,” said Karen-Inger Thorsen, CEO of Fodevarebanken, the only food bank that operates across Denmark. “It meant we had to deliver a different kind of food, which forced us to look for new food donors. We will continue this practice as it gives the communities a wider choice.”

Oak Foundation Denmark contributes to efforts that help people reach their full potential, be safe and healthy, and have a place to live. You can read more about Oak Foundation Denmark’s strategy on our website.