Tend’n & Befriend’n offers support to gun violence survivors

Sponsored feature: presented by Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University

The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.

Tend’n & Befriend’n

Who’s involved in this project?

Reverend Sky Starr (founder, executive director).

What are your goals for this project?

Rev Sky: Out of Bounds is a charitable organization with a mandate to provide competent grief and trauma supports as well as education and empowerment to grieving and non-grieving persons and communities. Tend’n & Befriend’n is a subsidiary program from OOB. It confronts the traumatic psychological effects of gun violence for youth, families and communities. Our processes provide pragmatic, personalized care with social outreach for mothers, siblings and extended family members.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?

Rev Sky: Confronting the psychological effects of gun violence trauma on youth, mothers, families and communities with limited to zero financial sustainability. Although grief and loss is a natural part of growth and development, there is an undercurrent of fear and dread associated with the topic. The gruesomeness and trauma affiliated with gun violence has also made it extremely uncomfortable and sometimes virtually impossible to obtain funding to sustain the projects. 

Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)?

Rev Sky: Grief and trauma cannot be “dressed up” and are difficult topics to discuss. The SVZ provides different strategies including branding workshops and personalized sessions that assist us in re-branding our organization and creating a short, attractive pitch for our services. We’re also extremely grateful for referrals to complementary organizations and other connections that are mutually beneficial. 

The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?

Rev Sky: Trauma associated with gun violence loss has a devastating ripple and long-range effect on the entire community. The most crushing impacts start with youth and family members. Mothers who are considered stabilizers in single-parent families suffer profoundly. Front-line workers, first responders, law enforcement officers, community organizers, churches, agencies, schools and students also suffer far-reaching impacts.

The services through Tend’n & Befriend’n will provide much-needed, customized care that residents in marginalized communities have become accustomed to from Out Of Bounds.

Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?

Rev Sky: One front-line worker expressed: “These services are valuable to the community, but I’m grateful that it’s also available to us.” Law enforcement have complimented us on the “great work we’re doing for the community.” Youth have said that “My life would be over without the support from Out Of Bounds.” And mothers have expressed their reliance on our support from inception to ongoing post-care with comments such as: “The support has been a lifeline for me.”

What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?

Rev Sky: We’re seeking partnerships that have similar interests, but will partner with anyone who seeks collaboration. Anyone who has a desire to serve within the social sector and/or community would be a fit. We’re also doing research so universities and colleges are also suitable opportunities.

Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?

Rev Sky: For starters, we would have adequate sponsorship to continue providing services for this huge gap in our communities. We would have at least seven paid, full-time staff to provide services with on-call personnel for emergencies. Our services would be offered in other priority neighbourhoods where gun violence trauma has become an epidemic. 

Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?

Rev Sky: Out Of Bounds was initiated in 2006 following “the year of the gun.” We’re seeking a “facelift” in order to demystify grief, loss and trauma as well as looking for new ways to break the silence and isolation surrounding this topic. Most importantly, we’re seeking corporate sponsorships that will help us meet this critical need in our community.

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