Non-profit group collecting headphones to support children during online learning

Equal Chance is collecting noise cancelling headphones to provide youth moving to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jackie Perez/CTV News Ottawa)

Working and studying from the confines of the home has been an adjustment for all, but even harder for families that don’t have the space or the equipment for an ideal learning environment.

The Ontario government recently announced the closing of in-person learning in schools after the Spring break.

It’s a move that’s pushed Gwen Madiba, president of Equal Chance, to collect noise cancelling headphones to serve youth in Ottawa’s low-income communities as they switch to at-home learning.

"It’s already hard for our children to be studying at home but imagine our children who have no homes, who live in these temporary places,” said Madiba.

Last weekend, the group dropped off its first batch of donations, 68 headphones, but are aiming for more in the coming week.

The initiative began in March, donations steadily making its way through the organizations doors at 428 Rideau St. Madiba has already noticed an increase in demand.

"Some of the children that are receiving these headphones are now speaking to their friends who happen to be homeless as well," she said. "We are receiving donations but we are also receiving calls to obtain headphones."

The organization works to provide essential services to low-income and homeless BIPOC families, children and individuals in Ottawa.

"We’re hoping to get at least 700 to 800 headphones," Madiba said, hoping to provide these to students in need as they switch to at-home learning next week.

The tighter public health measures in Ontario have been an adjustment for all, but even harder for families in tighter confines like Judith Pemba. 

"You know sometimes it's hard," Pemba said. "We live in a small place, there is five people (and) when they are learning it echoes."

Pemba lives in Vanier in a one-bedroom apartment with her four children, all under the age of 12.

Like many students, Pemba’s are set to learn from home starting early next week. But it’s a challenge for her eldest daughter.

"We couldn’t focus on work because you could hear other people’s conversations," said 11-year-old Shiloh. 

Pemba's daughter was one of the recipients of the first batch of headphones.

"It's better now with the headphones," she said. "Now we can focus and when we have time left we can listen to music chat with friends."

For Pemba, it’s allowed for some calm in an already busy household.

"They can study in peace, so they really like it," she said. "The headphones really help."