I t has certainly been a very different experience for everyone involved in the Youth Programs this year. Three summer camps in January were cancelled due to the bushfires, and all holiday camps and weekend activities have been put on hold since mid-March due to COVID-19. Nonetheless, our Youth Conferences continue to find creative ways to stay engaged with our youngies (young people in our programs) and oldies (youth members and volunteers) to provide the much-needed support during these unprecedented times.
The Youth Programs in Canberra/Goulburn consist of St Joe’s, VINES and St Nick’s, and the primary goal of the programs is to provide access to respite and recreation to approximately 300 young people between 6 and 17 years old. With most public facilities and schools closed during the COVID-19 restrictions, families have indicated the need for additional support to engage the young people at home. There were also mental health concerns, especially for young carers who have additional responsibilities caring for a family member during the pandemic. Hence, during our regular Youth Conference meeting, the members came up with alternative engagement opportunities to maintain support for the youngies. Families were able to opt-in if they wanted to participate in online activities and receive activity packs delivered to their doorsteps.
The oldies organised online watch parties, trivia, and catchup sessions via Zoom, and put together weekly video messages Canberra Goulburn Vinnies Youth Members on the Front Line to check-in with the youngies. In addition, 22 oldies delivered over 300 activity packs in the last few months to more than 85 families. An oldie, Laura even took the extra mile to drive an hour to deliver several activity packs to youngies in Yass, NSW. Each pack contained instructions and resources for various activities such as arts and crafts, science experiments, baking and gardening. On top of that, the oldies even made video tutorials on the activities!
It was so worth it to see the kids excited about the packs and the family being so thankful. – Oldie
Thank you so much for the packs, we are struggling so much being in lockdown still especially as we’re all high risk and both Marcus* and his sister, Katie* have autism. The packs really lightened up the kids especially Katie! – Parent of a young carer
As the oldies continue to support the youngies, we want to ensure that they are looking after themselves. The Youth Conferences continue to meet virtually, in addition to social catchups and selfcare training sessions. The first Youth Programs monthly eNewsletter was also launched in April to keep volunteers updated with program changes and to share positive stories. With restrictions eased in the ACT, we are in the process of putting together a COVID-19 Safety Plan for Youth Programs, with the plan to resume face-to-face activities in August.
♦ Gwendolyn Goon is Manager Youth and Young Adults, St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn