Another B.C. non-profit organization that DP World Community Kinship is proud to showcase is the RayCam Cooperative Centre, located in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver. What would become RayCam began when a group of mothers, frustrated that the safety of their children wasn’t being taken seriously, banded together to lift-up their community. The organization has since grown to offer services for many populations, from children to seniors, and they’ve weathered the trials and stresses of the pandemic.
Frustration Leads to Protests
In 1970, mothers at the Stamps Place Housing community were concerned their children had to cross a busy railroad track on their walk to school. After a letter writing and petition campaign didn’t get an overpass built, twenty-five “Militant Mothers of Raymur” staged a sit-in on the tracks in January of 1971. Within two months of the protest, construction on a pedestrian bridge began. Completed for the start of the 1971-72 school year that pedestrian bridge at Raymur Avenue is still in use today.
Keeping the Momentum
Having seen the pedestrian bridge installed, the group considered how else they could help their neighbourhood. They decided to create a food cooperative to aid the many food-insecure families in the area. This then led to a drive for the construction of a neighbourhood community centre that would provide services the area lacked, including gathering spaces and a place for children to go after school, as well as housing the food cooperative. The provincial government and the City of Vancouver committed to constructing the centre in 1973, construction began in 1975, and the centre opened in 1976.
The centre’s initial programming remains the core of what they do today, offering food pantry services and recreation space. The name Raycam is a simple portmanteau representing the community it serves; the centre is bounded by Raymur Avenue to the east, and Campbell Avenue to the west.
Even as RayCam has grown, it remains close to its roots. Some of the organization’s board members are the children of the mothers who occupied the railroad tracks in 1971.
Supporting and Enriching
RayCam’s services have expanded over the last 40+ years, making it a “living room” to the community. The centre now offers childcare for preschool-age children and afterschool care for primary school-aged children. Working with community partners to provide experiences, programs such as homework help, sports, martial arts, and field trips, to which the children might not otherwise have access to, are provided. RayCam also offers assistance and recreational opportunities to teens, families and seniors. All programs are free to RayCam members and membership is free to those who live in the neighbourhood.
Persisting Throughout the Pandemic
During the pandemic, RayCam has been dedicated to consistently offering services, as need during this time has been more acute than ever. The centre didn’t close and continues to offer support to member children and families, including assistance with transitioning to online schooling, which was a challenge for many families during the pandemic. Material and financial support from individual and donors has been key to managing the challenges caused by the pandemic.
How You Can Help
Community partnerships and direct donations are key to RayCam’s success. Long-term in-kind assistance, such as homework helpers and extracurricular coaches for afterschool programs, are key. Financial support to purchase food and materials is also important.
RayCam is grateful to organizations, such as DP World, that offer multi-year grant commitments. These commitments allow RayCam to strategically plan programming efforts and leverage other partnerships based on that support, including more opportunities for pre-teens and teenagers, in the forms of recreational events, outings and educational tutors.