The Change Foundation have been working creatively to support the vulnerable young people we work with while social distancing continues due to Covid-19. We have been fully committed to keeping our services going from the start and have adapted them to allow us to deliver differently. There were so many questions to ask around how we could continue to provide the essential mentoring and how to keep everyone safe. For charities like ours that thrive on face to face contact with our young people, we had to think quickly to ensure we could continue to provide engaging ways for them to interact with us, stay positive, and keep learning and growing. One method we are using to support the participants on one of our disability programmes, Girls Win, is Indoor Adventure.
The circumstances surrounding the pandemic and being directed to remain at home has caused an exacerbation of existing mental health conditions for many, with a reduction in access to support services such as counselling at college. The increase in isolation and loneliness can be felt very keenly, especially since many parents are key workers of all stripes, meaning young people are home alone for long periods of time. The disruption to routines also leads to poor wellbeing, including loss of sleep schedule, poor diet, reduction of physical activity, boredom, and frustration. There is increased pressure and potential for conflict at home with all kinds of causes, from separation of households, to lack of understanding around the situation, to grief in all its forms.
We are learning and growing with the young people as we adapt programmes and create new activities, and one of our key successes has been using the concept of Indoor Adventure. It consists of an exciting series of challenges for the young women to dive into each week. At the beginning of every week the young women receive a special message from their coach mentors highlighting the theme of the upcoming adventures. Each week the theme covers a different mental health and wellbeing topic. The young women then undertake a series of important individual activities each day which relate to physical activity, critical thinking, problem solving and goalsetting. These individual activities culminate into a group challenge that brings everyone together in a weekly video call to finish the adventure as a team. The video call finishes on a reflection of the week and a celebration of everything the young women have achieved.
As the young women participate in the individual and group challenges throughout the week, they have been sending updates of their progress to the coach mentors through text, voice, and video messages. At the end of every week the coach mentors have put together a highlights reel of the adventures that week and everyone who has been taking part in it to send to the group. The combination of the variety of activities, group challenges, reflection and feedback and the weekly adventure highlights reel has given the young women a sense of excitement, purpose and accomplishment through their achievements as a team, relieving some of the pressures felt from being in the stressful situation they find themselves in.
All young people have great energy, which needs to be channelled in a positive way. When the structure that they are used to falls, things that are already tough can feel even tougher. Through Indoor Adventure we can provide a plan for the week and some positive challenges that make all the difference in a young person’s outlook. In times of difficulty like this it is easy to look back at the past, which does not always look happy to our young people, so we have been helping them stay focussed on the future, and staying positive about the opportunities that await them in the months and years to come. With some other services having been forced to close, we have stepped up to provide more time with each young person every week and we are also acutely aware that demand for our services will likely grow when restrictions are lifted. We are prepared for that.
What has been key during this period, is everyone from the young participants, to the coaches, to senior management are all feeling some similar feelings, there is a real sense that we are in it together and that has really helped bring out the creativity in both the young people and the staff. The coach mentors have had to rethink how they deal with their own wellbeing, while considering that of the young people at the same time. It has been difficult, but we have put our best foot forward and are really pleased that some young people are having more interaction with their peers and making more friends than they did before Covid-19, through the changes we have made. This is the power of delivering differently.