In Child Psychiatry, a helping hand for families during the pandemic

Rachelle Fagen, a Psycho-educator in the Child Psychiatry Program of the Jewish General Hospital
Rachelle Fagen, a Psycho-educator in the Child Psychiatry Program of the Jewish General Hospital

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Psycho-educator Rachelle Fagen noticed that some families in the Child Psychiatry Program of the Jewish General Hospital were struggling. Deprived of their usual livelihoods, they were having a hard time making ends meet.

So Ms. Fagen stepped up to try to help.

She posted an appeal on her personal Facebook page asking if people would be willing to contribute to ease the families’ hardships. “I didn’t know who would respond,” Ms. Fagen says, “but I wanted to do something.”

It bore fruit. Thanks to her initiative, nine families with children in the Child Psychiatry Program have received gift cards to buy groceries.

Ms. Fagen was able to collect $2,000 in only three weeks of fundraising efforts. The funds allowed her to purchase gift cards at major supermarket chains in Montreal. Then, working with other team members of the Outpatient Department, she drew up a list of families who needed support the most. Some were already facing difficulties before the pandemic; others were coping with lost wages due to the upheavals of the health crisis.

“A lot of families were caught in a place where they suddenly couldn’t meet their financial requirements,” she says.

In September, Ms. Fagen finished sending out the gift cards and expressed gratitude for the generosity of individual contributors. Regardless of their own personal struggles during the pandemic, people donated whatever they could afford, starting at as little as $10, she says.

“It was beautiful that people who were themselves going through challenging times were giving what they could. It’s a testament to how much people do care about others and want to help.”

Ms. Fagen says she acted after discovering that few resources were available for vulnerable families during the pandemic. Community organizations, such as food banks, were stretched thin.

André Riendeau, Child Psychiatry Program Manager at the JGH, praised Ms. Fagen’s initiative.

“Rachelle embodies the values that we uphold in child psychiatry: going above and beyond for our patients, and being flexible, creative, adapting, living out our compassion through concrete gestures,” he says.

He adds that he is grateful to have Ms. Fagen on his team. “Staff like Rachelle are pillars in our healthcare system and truly bridge the gaps, especially in times like these.”

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