Emma Thompson, Manger of Mentoring Services at York charity The Island wrote us this guest blog about how they have been faring over the pandemic.
As with many other charities the past year has been difficult for The Island to operate its normal services, as a result of Covid 19. We had to make the decision in March to temporarily close down our service delivery and re-evaluate how we could support our wonderful families during such a difficult time.
Fortunately with the help of the community, business and many amazing supporters we began our Hampers of Hope. The Hampers of Hope allowed us to support existing families know to the service with food and activity hampers weekly or bi-weekly during the first Lockdown ensuring that we could support many needs. We saw over 60 hampers a week being delivered.
Alongside this we put our old brains into action and escaped our technophobe ways and got savvy with Zoom and video calls to ensure we could still have contact with our young people. We also went back to good old pen and paper and had lots of pen pal mentoring taking place between our lovely young people and their Mentors and encouraged many activity evenings, quiz nights and so on to keep up positive engagement with our the families we support.
Looking back it was a difficult time but it was also a learning journey – we were able to get creative – look at new ways of engaging and most importantly keep our young people at the heart of everything that we do.
Though many changes have taken place we reopened our 1.1 mentoring services in September 2020 and were able to see our mentees r engage with their mentors, enjoy their communities again and have the much needed Island of Time and Space that they had so hugely missed.
More recently we reintroduced ‘Bubble Groups’ back in to our service and whilst they by no means run in the same way as pre-Covid they are there and again we are on a creative journey to make them the best they can be as we continue this journey of change.
Our hampers are going out regularly, we still embark on the lifeline that is Zoom and most importantly we are still here!
The 2nd lockdown has being much more manageable for us and we have continued to look to the future positively and ensure all of our services offered transition through the many new facets that the Island can offer … be that our bubble groups, face to face 1.1, Zoom, penpal letters or staff support!
As a huge positive we have seen a growing support from our York Community in so many ways; from financial donations, food donations, resources and activities through to applications for volunteer mentoring.
We truly are amazed and blessed that everybody has gone through this journey with us and because of this we are now on target to have ALL …. yes ALL of our existing young people in support by January 2021.
We will be able to reopen our doors for new referrals in January 2021 and this is just fantastic.
There have being many hurdles, some we weren’t sure we would get through, but with the support and many many thanks to a strong staff team, amazing volunteers, our loyal and committed families and the community of York, we are here and will tackle everything head on as new changes happen.
Whilst all the has being possible …. its by no means being easy, facing ongoing financial restraints and adapting many platforms we use were aware we are still on this adventure and there is still lots of work to do and hurdles to overcome, but we are hopeful we will get there and if the loyal support continues it will make it even more possible!
Find out all you need to know about The Island