The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much uncertainty recently and in order to support families both in the community and those directly associated with the agency, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley has been distributing activity bins in place of the usual summer camps that have been cancelled due to social distancing concerns. The agency has worked hard to think of ways to supplement children with the activities they need to keep active – both mentally and physically – during this uncertain time. With gracious donations from Nicomekl Elementary and One Hope Church, the agency was able to develop two sets of activity bags to be distributed to families throughout the community for children aged 6-14. The first activity bag to be introduced to the community was distributed in July and included a series of arts and craft ideas, along with activities to do outside such as frisbees, jump rope, and chalk. These bins were distributed among 80 families living in nearby communities at Douglas Park Elementary School. The second edition of these activity bags was given out in August, however, in order to provide support to all of the interested families, the number of bags was increased from 80 to 100. This demonstrates the level of impact such a simple gesture has on the lives of families with children during this pandemic. In addition to the July and August general activity bags, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley also received donations from Vancouver Foundation to coordinate several themed activity bins for 20 families that are directly associated with the agency, whether it’s through the In-School Mentoring program, Go Girls, Game On, or the traditional Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs. These creative bins were also a huge success, with themed activities such as nature, sports, backyard, and movie night. The agency was thrilled to receive various photos of children doing the activities provided in each bin. The amazing generosity of our donors allowed us to provide various indoor and outdoor activities, as well as sports and crafts, for many families who have been able to keep their children active when it may have been difficult to do so otherwise.
In addition to the various summer activity bins, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley also created a multitude of virtual activities to further engage children, and to provide them with live interaction and socialization. In total, there have been 12 activities, hosted by the two summer students and a variety of teen and community volunteers. The goal of the virtual activities was to give children an opportunity to interact with other participants and some leaders in a safely distanced manner; this allows for a type of social inclusion that couldn’t be achieved with the activity bins. Many children thrive off of the daily social interactions experienced through school and playing with friends and are struggling with the concept of social isolation. Though not the same as the in-person summer camps, the virtual activities offered some alternatives for those who haven’t been able to socialize with their peers recently. There was a diverse selection of virtual activities for children to sign up for, including Zumba, story creation, a no-bake cooking tutorial, games day, yoga, and various art tutorials. This was done so that if some participants didn’t enjoy a certain type of activity, there were many more options to choose from. The most popular events proved to be a create and paint tutorial led by two teen volunteers, and an escape room designed by the summer students, with an average of 16 attendees each. With several children returning for the majority of the activities, it offered a chance for them to get to know the other participants, as well as the leaders on a more personal level. It was heart-warming to see the personalities of each child surface as they became more comfortable with the group, enjoying their time spent learning new skills and participating in fun games. Multiple parents also provided positive feedback and encouragement, indicating how much their child enjoyed the bi-weekly activities. For the last few weeks of summer, there will be an additional four virtual activities, which will be planned and led by teen volunteers. Although the future of in-person activities may be questionable, the agency will continue to provide unique, inclusive, and interactive virtual experiences for our community. #BiggerTogether