Jane (Big) and Flame (Little) enjoying playing hangman on the video-conferencing platform ‘Zoom’. Photo: Supplied.

Keeping connected in isolation

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The Covid-19 pandemic has changed almost all aspects of society.

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides mentors for young people but the lockdown has restricted connections.

The charity has had to assess what social distancing means for mentoring relationships and ensure they are sustainable and safe.

Programme Director Chelsea Routhan says mentors are a key foundation for young people wanting friendship and routine and they are operating remotely, with staff working from home.

“In the midst of a global health pandemic, Big Brothers Big Sisters has done all it can to ensure that the structure still exists.”

They are supporting their community-based matches through frequent match support and are encouraging the use of ‘virtual meeting’ during this time, with mentors connecting with their mentees via the phone, email, and video-conferencing services.

Chelsea says mentors have received weekly resources packed with ideas on how to stay connected in isolation, with ideas from sharing music, books, drawing together and playing hangman, through to doing virtual tours and mindfulness.

“They’re using FaceTime and video chat, Skype, Zoom and all the different ways that they can interact and still see each other’s faces and stay connected. The relationships the mentors, or ‘Bigs’ have created with their ‘Littles’ pay dividends in times like these when we need people to lean on. It is important to keep a sense of normalcy during a very uncertain time.”

The programme matches adult mentors with children ages six to 12 who want and need a positive role model in their life.

“We know the difference a Big Brother or Big Sister makes in their lives,” Chelsea says.

“They are a caring friend to talk to, a guiding force, someone to turn to when life becomes harsh. The families of the children we serve will be some of the hardest hit during this time of isolation and economic downturn.”

With its office closed temporarily, Big Brothers Big Sisters faces complications trying to match new people together when they can’t meet.

Chelsea says there was a backlog of about 50 local young people waiting for a mentor before the pandemic hit.

“After this passes, people shouldn’t forget the importance of relationships and connections with other people and that by joining the programme, they can pass that on to others.”

To inquire about becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, contact Chelsea Routhan at [email protected].