Ordinarily, this is the time when Nehemiah is bustling with activity as we prepare for the beginning of the school semester. While things may look different, we are working hard to plan for a “new normal” academic year. It is a challenging task and changes often, but we are committed to meeting the needs of our precious children. Staff returned to work on August 17. Virtual teaching and tutoring will begin on September 8, and children will return to the Center on October 19. We are currently processing enrollment through our website, and we are waiving all tuition fees through November 2020.
The Pre-K team will create four weekly learning content videos via YouTube until in-person classes resume. Our middle school will follow the HISD calendar and provide virtual learning for the first six weeks. We will continue to create more Praise and Worship videos, and we plan to purchase more than 20 laptops for our students. We will continue to provide internet access for families through Verizon hot spots.
Mandatory and critical parent educational curriculum will be taught via Zoom. It is imperative that these weekly classes resume because they foster a safe space where parents can comfortably share their pandemic trauma. This forum also offers a constant platform to assess family needs. As we transition into the school year, weekly phone calls will continue in order to address serious issues in a timely manner. These calls have been a lifeline through the last five months and revealed that food insecurities are the number one fear. This is exacerbated because during a typical school year, children receive two or three meals a day at Nehemiah. With reduced work hours, layoffs and stay-at home orders, financial strains regarding food, rent, utilities, domestic violence and more continue to increase.
We couldn’t resolve these overwhelming issues or offer quality resources without YOU and all of our loving community partners. Main Street Ministries, West Houston Assistance Ministries, and BakerRipley submitted housing and utility payments on behalf of our families, and the Houston Bar Association helped them avoid evictions. Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church donated 40 cases of frozen chicken, and Catholic Charities provided 30 pounds of food. The Houston Junior Forum gave us grocery gift cards, and the Houston Food Bank gave us 30 pounds of food in June and school supplies for our teachers. The Get Together provided cases of masks and gloves. Each week in June, Second Servings dropped off meat, bread, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and the City of Houston provided free summer program meals (breakfast and lunch). High school volunteers from St. Agnes Academy and Strake Jesuit directed daily drop-off and pick-up lines during our summer program. THANK YOU ALL!!
For our families to survive this pandemic, our partnerships have become even more important. Rice University, University of St. Thomas and University of Houston students, along with community volunteers, will be paired with children for one-on-one virtual after-school tutoring three times a week. Weekly counseling and speech therapy will resume online with Aveanna Healthcare and Fuller Life Family Therapy Institute. First Presbyterian Church has graciously offered to underwrite therapy expenses and provide funding to purchase laptops. Houston Junior Forum will donate 50 backpacks and is reviewing all enrollment packets to ensure paperwork is complete and immunization records are up to date. Baxter Trust has partnered with HEB and will distribute food vouchers. First Presbyterian Children & Family Ministries will give children’s bibles to Nehemiah prekindergarten through first grade students.
COVID-19 has profoundly devastated our families, but the spirit of Houston generosity is alive and well. We thank you for stepping up and caring for those less fortunate. Our families find comfort in knowing that you are here to help them through their best and worst. Thanks to all of you, our pandemic response has become a shining example of why locally-led solutions are so powerful. Our hearts are filled with immense gratitude for the outpouring of support you’ve all shown. Bless each and every one of you for your steadfast belief in this life-changing ministry!