It is no secret that building relationships and trust is what OIM is all about.
Four times each week, groups of youth and young adults gather to sing, share, create art and support each other. The youth greet each other with hugs and catch up with volunteer Mentors who are always interested in hearing what’s going on in their lives.
When ‘Social Distancing’ came into existence along with the reality we would not be able to meet together, we felt helpless. We actually felt we were abandoning the youth who have come to trust and depend on us.
We quickly adapted and started reaching out through Social Media and texting. We sent a card to each youth, telling them we missed them and were thinking of them. We also were able to include a grocery gift card. Volunteer Mentors began meeting remotely with youth, offering one-on-one check-ins on a weekly basis. And, staff were only a phone call away for crisis intervention if needed. Small steps for us, but huge for our youth.
The message? “We care about you.” “We miss you.” “You are important to us.”
Here are just a couple of replies:
“Thank you for just being there for us and help keeping us all sane and safe.”
“The card meant more to me than the gift card did. It had me crying because of how much you guys actually do for us.”
While staff were trying to show the youth that we care about them, the youth were turning it right back on us! They would send us messages asking how WE were coping, asking about how the VOLUNTEERS are doing, and saying that they were thinking of US!
This touched us deeply, and more, brought us immense comfort. We were missed, cared for and valued in a time when we ourselves are feeling fearful, uncertain and overwhelmed.
Community is more than gathering together – it is being missed when you are away. When someone reaches out and says, “I am missing you,” it deeply touches our hearts. Even while we are absent from each other, we can still connect – and it works both ways.