While public health officials continue to urge Canadians to practice physical distancing, Big Brothers Big Sisters Sault Ste. Marie knows how important it is for mentors to stay connected to their kids. Maintaining a connection is imperative to their mental health and wellness, especially during isolation.
SooToday spoke to a mentor who has been with Big Brothers Big Sisters for two and a half years about how the program is running and responding to COVID-19.
“There have been changes made to the program because of the pandemic,” said the mentor, whose identity we have agreed not to publish. “April (McBride) has been doing a great job of keeping in touch and conducting check-ins with the bigs through electronic means. We also get e-mails with a list of ideas on how to engage and keep in touch with our littles while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Kids Help Line has reported a 350-per-cent increase in calls from kids experiencing anxiety and mental health concerns. This statistic shows the impact that COVID-19 is having on young people now, and Big Brothers Big Sisters Sault Ste. Marie is doing their part by supporting and encouraging mentors to communicate with their mentees about mental health concerns and build new routines that provide a sense of stability.
“Before the pandemic my little and I would have an outing every week for about two to three hours. It was very easy to find different community events to participate in, hang out at the local parks, go shopping and go to the movies,” said the Big Sister. “Now with the restrictions on public places, we have resorted to the Snapchat app. We will send each other snaps throughout the day and will occasionally call each other using video chat on the app.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters Sault Ste. Marie is ensuring that mentors continue to connect with young people who need it the most, when they need it most – which is right now.
“I had a rapport built with my little before the pandemic and even though we are in a different time now it seems to be a seamless transition. I try my best to ensure my little knows I’m still making time to talk to her and be there for her, just in a different format,” she said.
The volunteer added that she loves being a Big Sister and that it was one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
“I love the idea of being a positive, consistent role model in a child's life and thought the program was a great fit for that,” she said. “My little and I match very well and she has brought so much joy to my life."
The board and staff of Big Brothers Big Sisters Sault Ste. Marie are proud of the efforts and continued support their mentors are providing to the youth in the community and would like to thank them for making a difference.
They are encouraged by the success stories coming in as a result of Bigs and Littles getting creative in order to stay connected while not being able to be together in person.
The mentors are providing local youth with support and a safe place to explore their feelings, thoughts and struggles during this situation.