March 30th 2020- These are challenging times we find ourselves in, and I hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well and staying as connected as possible as you practice social distancing. It’s during times like these that we must come together as a community, to support one another and, most especially, to support those who are at risk and vulnerable. At Big Brothers Big Sisters of York (BBBSY), this means continuing to empower life-changing mentoring relationships for young people facing adversity, even if how we create and support those relationships looks a little different for the foreseeable future.
As we navigate this unpredictable situation, the health and safety of the young people we serve, and the well-being of our staff, volunteers, and stakeholders, remains paramount and guides every decision we make. We have been monitoring the situation closely and following the recommendations of public health officials by implementing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Our office is currently closed to the public and we are supporting a work-from-home policy for our staff. Our ‘normal’ day-to-day has been impacted but the important work of BBBSY continues and our incredible staff remains dedicated to providing the quality of service and support we are known for, albeit in a virtual way for the time being. The focus right now is on reaching out to all of the families and volunteers we serve to ensure they have the support they need and to discuss our ideas and suggestions for maintaining mentoring relationships.
We know that social distancing is our very best defence against COVID-19, which is why we made the decision to cancel all in-person mentoring visits and activities. This does not mean that these mentoring relationships have come to an end as we are working with our Bigs, Littles, and families on the ways they can continue building developmental relationships and improved social emotional learning despite social distancing. Staff will be working with matches on how they can stay connected virtually, including video chat; playing internet games together; participating in online activities; or staying connected through messaging and phone calls.
We are also continuing to engage with the incredible individuals who have expressed an interest in volunteering with us so that we can move forward with creating even more life-changing mentoring relationships for the children and youth in our communities. Staff continue to connect face-to-face with new volunteers using video chat platforms, and we are working on rolling out virtual training and resources for new mentors in the weeks ahead.
During and after this crisis, caring, supportive relationships will be more critical than ever. So many young people are facing new levels of stress related to the feelings of fear, isolation and loneliness caused by COVID-19. Their physical and mental well-being is our top priority, which is why we remain focused on creating and nurturing mentoring relationships.
All of us at BBBSY feel so fortunate to be part of such a caring, close-knit community; it’s been comforting and inspiring to witness the outpouring of support everyone is showing for one another right now. That level of support from you and our community is the reason we feel so well prepared to deal with this crisis.
The very best thing we can all do right now is stay informed and follow the advice of our public health officials regarding protection and prevention.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, or even if you would just like to connect, we are a phone call or email away. Please, take care and stay well.
IMPORTANT PUBLIC NOTICE
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of York, the well-being of the children and youth we serve is and always has been our utmost priority. We are closely following York Region Public Health and provincial safety measures to do our part in promoting the health and safety of our BBBSY community. That includes the families we serve, the amazing volunteers who support us, and our own agency staff.
In order to do our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 our office is closed to the public and our staff are working remotely. We can however, still be reached via email. For a complete staff listing please visit Contact Us.
Additionally, all school-based mentoring programs have been postponed until our partnering schoolboards (YRDSB and SCDSB) are operating as usual. At this time, all Community-Based mentoring programs will continue, however in-person contact between Mentors and Mentees is NOT permitted. For these matches, our team is encouraging connection through other means; telephone, text, email, Skype, etc.
We recognize that the more consistency we can maintain in young peoples lives during this time of great uncertainty, the better they will adapt to all of the other unexpected changes going on around them.
We appreciate your understanding and look forward to getting back to business as usual.
As we practice social distancing and refrain from congregating in large groups, our agency has postponed various fundraising activities. Without this crucial fundraising period, our team is working hard to find alternative solutions for funding that will allow us to continue serving the young people in our community with the mentoring support they need. If you can, please consider donating to our agency to help us continue igniting the power and potential of our young people when they need it most. Thank you.
PROGRAMS AND SERVICES
While you practice social distancing, it’s time to lean into digital nearness! It is important for matches to stay connected and continue to maintain and develop their relationships. For some FUN virtual/online activities ideas, click here. Matches may stay in contact via telephone and social media with parent oversight.
PROTECT YOURSELF AND PREVENT THE SPREAD
What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Some transmit easily from person to person while others do not. COVID-19 is a new disease that has not been previously identified in humans. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19.
What are the symptoms?
Unfortunately, those with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have a COVID-19 infection because symptoms are similar to a cold or flu, and they may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure. The Public Health Agency of Canada says that symptoms have included: fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pneumonia in both lungs.
What is the treatment?
For now, there is no specific treatments for most people with COVID-19. However, most people with common coronavirus illness will recover on their own. Consult your health care provider as soon as possible if you are concerned about your symptoms. The sooner you consult your health care provider, the better your chances are for recovery.
How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?
You can stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections by:
- washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
- avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
- coughing or sneezing into your sleeve and not your hands; and
- staying home if you are sick to avoid spreading illness to others.
How to avoid stigma (from the World Health Organization)
There are an increasing number of reports of public stigmatization against people from areas affected by COVID-19. Unfortunately, this means that people are being labelled, stereotyped, separated, and/or experience loss of status and discrimination because of a potential negative affiliation with the disease. These stereotypes are unfounded. One of the best ways we can help is by keeping ourselves informed.
Where can I find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19?
For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html