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Keeping young people connected
As COVID-19 continues to give rise to social restrictions and isolation, a Dartmouth youth centre is working to maintain mental health and arts programming for Nova Scotia youth.
Located at 50 Queen St. in downtown Dartmouth, The MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning empowers youth between the ages of 12 and 19 by connecting passion with purpose. The centre offers unique programming in visual arts, music, creative writing and more, removing barriers to creative learning for all.
Like many organizations, the MacPhee Centre has had to pivot their operations during the pandemic and is now offering virtual programming and check-ins with youth in the province.
Karn Nichols, chair of the board for the MacPhee Centre, has been involved with the organization since 2009 and says everything the centre takes on is done with great attention to quality and detail.
“The virtual programming is no different,” she says. “The MacPhee Centre is a community hub that plays an important role for the youth in HRM and simply closing our doors on them wasn’t an option.”
Together, the MacPhee Centre team brainstormed efficient and impactful ways to stay connected to the youth in the community throughout the pandemic. From April 6 to May 1, weekly online programming began with more than 100 youth participating in the trial.
“The response to these classes from across the province has exceeded our expectations and inspired us to continue to develop deeper competencies in delivering virtual programming that is rich, meaningful, and aligned with our mission, vision, and values,” says Nichols. “This opportunity has allowed us to broaden the horizons of both the centre and its youth while serving a deep need in our community.”
In addition to providing virtual sessions on art, music, writing, and mental wellness, the centre has assembled free participation kits for youth to make the online programming as barrier-free as possible. The virtual programming has allowed youth to continue connecting with peers and mental health professionals during what, for many, is a difficult and confusing time.
Interim executive director Emma Beukma says she is proud the centre was able to continue to offer the same wonderful programming they’ve become known for, while also expanding their audience to youth who haven’t previously participated.
“The goal of the trial virtual programming was to find the way forward to ensure there was no gap in our service to youth,” explains Beukma. “Adversity creates innovation and opportunity and we are excited to see where this new online programming will take us.”
Beukma says the feedback from youth and their parents has been so positive the centre is looking at a blended delivery model when things return to normal. The experience has also allowed the centre to deliver programming to youth in rural Nova Scotia who do not typically have access to creative programming in their own communities.
Jeff Thoms is a community social worker and program committee chair at the MacPhee Centre who says staying connected in times of crisis is essential, especially for youth.
“Community can help build a solid foundation for one’s overall well-being,” he explains. “We need to continue to expand our understanding of connectedness and take advantage of creative pathways to build and sustain community.”
Thoms says isolation and uncertainty can cause distress and challenges for our mental health, and youth can be particularly challenged by the pitfalls of disconnection. By keeping youth engaged, we can tap into their endless creativity and passion, which in turn makes our society stronger and more inclusive.
If you’re wondering how to check in on the youth in your life during these challenging times, Thoms’ advice is not to wait.
“Sometimes the smallest gestures make the biggest impacts,” he says. “Be open to what a young person might say and approach the conversation from a non-judgmental stance. Really listen and be there for them in an authentic way during all of this. That will leave the door open for future conversations down the road.”
Get involvedThe MacPhee Centre is always looking for dedicated volunteers to assist with programming and make a difference for the youth in our province. For more information, email email@example.com or call 902-469-2851.
If you’d like to donate to the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning, visit their CanadaHelps page.
For any youth who are struggling with their mental health and need someone to speak with, please reach out. Through their partnership with the IWK, the MacPhee Centre has a shared clinician available to meet with youth virtually. Appointments can be made by contacting the email or phone number listed above.
Kid’s help phone sees jump in demandSince the beginning of COVID-19, demand for support via text from young people in Nova Scotia has increased by 53 per cent, and service demand continues to grow over time. The week of May 4th was the second-highest volume week of 202, second only to the week directly after the tragic shooting.
The most common issues stem from:
Numbers for success:
- 81 per cent of contacts feel better after their conversation with Kids Help Phone
- 83 per cent of contacts say they wouldn’t have reached out to anyone else
- Young People: 1-800-668-6868 or text NSSTRONG to 686868
- Post-Secondary Students: 1-833-292-3638 or text Good2TalkNS to 686868
- Adults/Frontline Workers: Crisis Line text NSSTRONG to 741741
Jill Ellsworth is a lover of handwritten letters, bottomless tea, and contributing to the chaos.