This year has seen a global pandemic that has sent the world into quarantine, shut down businesses, and thrust millions into uncertainty - but like all things, 2020 comes with a silver lining. Undeterred by the coronavirus, the hard working members of the Paper Bridges team have been diligently running around the clock to support youth in our local and international communities.
In order to maximize our international impact, we have created a team to focus on Paper Bridges’ international expansion. Although the US has switched to the foster care system, orphanages are still prevalent across the globe, and it is important that our members are extremely knowledgeable in these global spaces. Thus, by establishing more chapters in our international communities, our members will be able to create more meaningful and sustainable impact.
One of our core pillars is that anyone, regardless of age or background, can create a positive social impact. As a result, we spend much of our efforts training and mentoring our youth leaders. Our nonprofit board has been working closely with Paper Bridges presidents to establish frameworks for sustained chapter and member engagement and to amplify student voices. Thanks to the tireless efforts of state presidents and the executive board, Paper Bridges has been able to expand to 44 chapters and make connections in nearly 20 countries, all in our efforts to provide resources to orphans and vulnerable youth around the world.
We are writing to inform you of all the exciting changes we’re implementing and the shifting direction of our nonprofit. The first and biggest of these changes is our new domestic focus on supporting foster youth, a change catalyzed by the demonstrated need of our local communities during the pandemic. The United States began shifting away from the orphanage system in the early 1900s, and as of 1950, most displaced children in America have been placed in the foster care system. While these systems provide crucial housing and material needs for foster children, the system still fails to provide nearly enough support or stability to secure success for young people later in life.
This year, Paper Bridges has worked to develop relationships with local foster care directors, youth advocacy groups, and other nonprofit organizations to learn more about gaps in the foster care system and to see how Paper Bridges can best advocate for young people. Using our resources and large student base, we hope to support young people by bolstering mental health and self esteem, providing PPE during the pandemic, and building relational stability through tutoring and mentoring programs. These initiatives will go hand in hand with our continued commitment to young people in orphanages around the world.
The unexpected tide of COVID-19 has left many young people stranded in the education system without strong academic support systems at home. Struggling to juggle online learning with the pressures of the pandemic and facing a multitude of other challenges including housing uncertainty, isolation, and insufficient technology, many youth have fallen behind in school.
We at Paper Bridges hope to bridge this gap by providing free tutoring for youth in the foster care system through our nationwide chapter network, as well as partnerships with tutoring nonprofits such as Learn to Be. This will be an opportunity for our volunteers to engage more more closely with youth in their local communities. More importantly, the tutoring program can provide the critically important relational stability missing in the lives of many young people, and build friendships that can hopefully last years to come.
In addition to our tutoring initiative, our team is currently working on establishing more corporate partnerships to supply and facilitate the donation of much needed materials for our orphanage and foster system partners. Our continued partnership with Watchtower Supplies will provide over 100k masks to foster care youth, families, and center employees this August, with more being provided throughout the pandemic. These in-kind donations from generous individuals and organizations are crucial to supporting vulnerable children around the world.
Lastly, Paper Bridges has been in contact with youth advocacy boards to learn more about incoming and pressing policy changes that will affect the landscape for young people in foster care and those aging out. Employing our large student base, we hope to add our voices to these urgent policy initiatives and enact grassroots change through our nexus of chapters. By signing petitions, lobbying to local and state legislators, and staying informed on policy, Paper Bridges can lend our student and community voices to the rising swell of youth advocates around the country.
With so many exciting initiatives planned, our nonprofit team is looking forward to seeing the work of all our member chapters and the impact you all will have on young people across the globe. These past couple of years have demonstrated not only the growing need of support for vulnerable youth, but also the power of enthusiasm and a willing heart from passionate individuals to curate change in the world around them.