When it became clear we were going to be living radically different lives due to COVID-19, ICA’s Youth and Family Services Team wasted no time getting ready. Thanks to their quick response and creativity, ICA is now able to provide online support and social time for youth. At a time when we need our community the most, it can be difficult for many youth to accept that we must keep them at a safe distance. Thanks to social media and technology we are still able to provide connections, support and encouragement while we all stay safe at home.
From art battles and music, to breathing exercises, staff have encouraged youth to bring activities that help them process thoughts and emotions during their sessions in an effort to help other youth cope with distance. “There is a really special moment when someone logs on who you haven’t seen in a while. To laugh and share a special moment with our community makes the effort worth it. We can’t take these small offerings of connection for granted during these tough times,” says Robin McGeough, a Youth Settlement Worker.
As a community building exercise, the Youth and Family Services Team has focused on “caremongering” to help youth take on leadership roles even at a distance. “We want our youth to learn that they are key players in times like this,” said Gita John-Iyam. “In a way, I feel that this has levelled the playing field in the community. Our youth, with their access to technology, are in a position to lead adults who don’t have the same comfort level with computers and smart phones,” Gita concluded.
Using Zoom, immigrant youth and families are still able to connect with ICA staff in a number of innovative programs:
- Culture Catch-Up is a social time for youth ages 15 -25 and happens every Tuesday and Thursday from 2pm-2:40pm
- Landing Spot, a program for children and families ages 6 and up, will begin the week of April Times are still being determined.
- Online Drop-In Program is up and running online. Youth ages 15 – 25 will meet via Zoom on Fridays from 11am-11:40pm and families ages 6 and up will meet on Mondays from 11am-11:40pm.
One of the most challenges aspects of staying home is finding ways to connect with friends and family. We are learning more about how COVID-19 is transmitted and the advice from the Ministry of Health is for people to stay home and not gather in groups. ICA encourages everyone to stay home as much as possible and to connect with people through video calls such as Facetime or Zoom.
ICA’s intern, Anja Bischof, was in the middle of ICA’s Youth and Family Services Team’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She completed the last few weeks of her practicum from home and states:
“It was fascinating to see how quickly our team adapted to supporting their youth and families through the use of technology instead of in-person meetings. Besides doing one-on-one check-ins with their clients, volunteers, and community partners using phone calls, Facebook messenger, and e-mails, the team also created virtual versions for the Landing Spot and That Thing on Tuesday, a program for youth to have a casual get together. It has been wonderful to witness how the ICA community reaches out to each other and stays connected during this time of social isolation and uncertainty.”
We are proud of our success so far at ICA, getting youth and families connect quickly in the midst of this unprecedented situation. If you would like more information about our Youth and Family Services Program, please contact Nabeela Ramji, Settlement Youth Worker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 778-677-7146