A message from our Executive Director, Roslyn Henderson:

The current COVID-19 pandemic has shifted our world and we are not alone when we say that this is a very uncertain time for our local and global communities. Although it is hard to predict what the coming weeks will hold, we want you to know that our mission remains the same. Our agency is here, and is committed to supporting life-changingmentoring relationships for young people facing adversity. Social isolation is an adversity that we are all facing at the moment, but it will be especially challenging for the vulnerable young people and families that we serve.

Please know that we are focusing our efforts to better serve our community and families during this difficult time, and like many of you, we are developing new strategies and ideas daily. Although our matches are currently not able to see each other in person, our mentors are still engaging virtually in order to provide much needed support and friendship during this confusing time for children. It is through these relationships that children will build resiliency. Hearing stories from our matches on how they are still striving to connect has been heart-warming and encouraging.

And as our ability to engage with our family, friends, colleagues, and neighbours becomes increasingly more challenging, we are learning how essential these connections truly are. So to our families, our volunteers, our partners, and our community – we want you to know that we are here for you and we will come out of this #BiggerTogether.

As you are all aware, the COVID-19 crisis has presented challenges that we could not have imagined even a short time ago. Our most immediate concern, as always, is the safety of our staff, families, volunteers, and the community at large.

Our agency has a responsibility to contribute in any way we can to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we can best do this by limiting in-person contacts and practicing effective social distancing. We have taken a number of precautionary measures:

Agency Closure

· As of Wednesday March 18, we have closed our office and have supported our employees to work from home. If you have any questions or concerns and need to connect with your mentoring coordinator, please email them and they will reach out to you via email or phone. A complete list of our team and contact information can be found here.

Agency Events

·  We have cancelled all events and group activities that were scheduled to take place during the months of March and April.

Mentoring Programs

· To mitigate risk of spread and help flatten the curve, we are asking you postpone in-person contact for community-based matches until further notice. We will provide resources and activity ideas to mentors and families while in isolation or quarantine.

· All in person meetings for match check ins will be continued through Skype or Face Time (or phone if video is not available).

· We have paused all in school mentoring matches and school based groups. These will resume once we receive notice that schools and classes have resumed. We would like to facilitate as much communication as possible between our in school mentoring matches so your mentoring coordinator will reach out to discuss how this may look.

Mentoring Resources & Tips

Be mindful. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, it may trigger trauma for young people impacted by the virus or by the news surrounding the pandemic. Let your mentee know that you see them and are there for them.

Be intentional about preserving continuity in the relationship.

  • Acknowledge what is going on and engage in a dialogue about the pandemic.
  • Understand and honour your emotions and the emotions of your mentee, including the range of reactions that may be expressed.
  • Commit to self-care. Know that it is okay to take a break from the news and discussions about the virus as needed to manage anxiety or other responses to the situation.

Be in it together. Let your mentee know that you are in this together and are here to help.

  • Follow the latest on COVID-19 on the BC’s Centre for Disease Control website.
  • Follow the guidelines of your mentoring program and your mentee’s guardian around how to connect and communicate virtually with your mentee. Decide on clear boundaries and agreements about how you will connect with your mentee when meeting in-person.

Be communicative. Healthy and supportive relationships are crucial during this time.

  • If you are able to communicate virtually with your mentee:
    ▪ Let your mentee know you need to temporarily pause seeing them in person but are still there for them virtually. Create a plan with your mentee about how you will stay in touch while continuing to follow the appropriate guidelines.
  • If you are not permitted/able to communicate virtually:
    ▪ Work with your Mentoring Coordinator to figure out a way to pass along information to let your mentee know that you care, value the relationship, and will need to temporarily pause in-person meetings. Health and safety are the primary focuses at this time.

United Way ‘hi neighbour’ initiative

  • We are happy to provide assistance during these challenging times. Please share what type of support you need most right now.

This is obviously a very difficult time for all, but despite these immediate challenges, we want to reassure you that we are here to support you and commit to providing you continued updates and guidance as things continue to unfold. Our team is thinking of you all!

Please do not hesitate to connect if you have any questions: admin.langley@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca