Enhancing Virtual Mentorship to Reduce Social Isolation of Youth

Mckee Demczyk, Debbie | $50,000

Ontario Durham College 2020 NSERC College COVID-19 Grant

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of North Durham (BBBSND) has a long history of providing vital mentorship programming to vulnerable youth in rural areas of Uxbridge, Scugog, and Brock Townships, who deal with anxiety on a regular basis. The COVID‑19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the daily hardships experienced by these youth, who already experience limited opportunities to build healthy relationships. These youth have little or no access to supports, including transportation and technology, and similar concerns are noted by BBBS Canada in the agencies that serve rural communities across Canada. It is clear there is an urgent need to ensure these essential mentorship relationships do not deteriorate.

The overall aim of this project is to ensure that the vitally important mentor support provided to mentees is maintained despite the physical distancing challenges imposed by the pandemic and that arising mental health needs are addressed for both the mentor and mentee in the North Durham Region. The project aims to increase the use of virtual platforms by providing resources, including relationship building activities and mental health supports, easily accessible to mentors in one location. The resulting resource bank and updated tools will serve as a roadmap for use by BBBS Canada and others in other rural communities in Canada.

Specific objectives include data collection, achieved through virtual interviews with mentors and mentees to understand stressors and to gather feedback about virtual interactions; creation of a resource bank for mentors on the BBBS website to enhance virtual interactions with mentees; and an environmental scan of available mental health resources that will enable the team to compile useful resources. Existing BBBS mental health resources (handouts, lengthy training modules) will be adapted to a virtual format that will ensure content is concise and relevant to the needs of mentors and mentees where physical distancing is required.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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