Volunteer Campbell River has launched a new initiative that’s aimed to help connect youth with seniors in the community. Here, Executive Director Mary Catherine Williams and Youth Engagement Coordinator Chloe Valentine brainstorm the Brighter Day project. Image courtesy of Volunteer Campbell River

Vancouver Island youth making brighter days for community’s seniors

New Volunteer Campbell River initiative connects local youth with seniors

A new Volunteer Campbell River initiative aims to connect the community’s youth with seniors.

Brighter Day was launched earlier this year by the nonprofit’s youth engagement coordinators.

Sarah Robinson and Chloe Valentine noticed that some demographics were getting missed when it came to volunteering in the community.

“We noticed that our seniors are often facing a lot of disconnection and isolation in the community and we noticed some youth in the community who are sharing those emotions as well,” said Valentine. “So with Brighter Day, we’re really hoping to bring together the youth who care with the seniors who matter.”

The project falls under the Youth Can 2020 initiative, now in its second year, and was funded in part by RBC Future Launch and the Campbell River Community Foundation.

When the pandemic hit and all in-person gatherings were suspended, the pair turned to technology to help launch the new initiative. They created a Google Classroom portal as a way to share relevant information for seniors and youth alike. There’s material on mental wellness and self care as well as online volunteering opportunities.

With the pandemic, many youth were having experiences parallel to some seniors.

“I think also with our youth right now with COVID, they are personally experiencing isolation and having their life, their friend circle shrink so suddenly and they’re really connecting to this idea that seniors live like this and they’re connecting to the idea of bringing people together and building a sense of belonging,” said Robinson. “So as unfortunate as it is, it’s been very powerful for our youth to go through this experience and imagine what it is [like] for seniors.”

Brighter Day has a small but dedicated cohort of youth volunteers that are currently actively involved, despite being able to meet in person.

Earlier this month, Valentine and Robinson distributed art materials and held a virtual paint night over Zoom where the volunteers created cards for local seniors, that will be delivered later.

While the coordinators have some other ideas for ways to engage youth with seniors,

Robinson said the initiative will be shaped by volunteers’ interests.

Some volunteers are working on short videos that can be shared with seniors. One offered to put together a baking tutorial, since they’d been baking a bunch during the pandemic. Another youth is putting together a musical performance to share.

“Brighter Day can really be what you want it to be and what you need it to be,” said Valentine. “We don’t require a minimum time commitment from anybody. We want this to be something that doesn’t add stress to your life and that you can work on at your own pace.”

And while people might think teenager when they hear youth, Robinson said the program is open to those between 15 and 29.

“This is a great time for any of those adults who are maybe experiencing more time at home to jump on and make an impact right now,” she said.

The youth engagement coordinators are currently working with Trudy Parry, Volunteer Campbell River’s senior support program coordinator, to identify seniors who may benefit from the initiative. Parry has a running list of folks who have been referred – either by themselves, or through a family member. But anyone who is interested in being involved can contact the volunteer centre.

“We’re happy to chat with them and see what they’re looking for and help meet their needs,” said Valentine.

As communities ease out of COVID-19 public health restrictions, the coordinators aren’t quite sure how Brighter Day will change. They’re exploring pairing youth up with a senior, possibly hosting some outdoor events, or arranging more community art projects.

It’s the program’s first year and they’re open to ideas.

“We’re hoping that this is just going to continue to … build and become a regular part of our community,” said Valentine.

Anyone interested in becoming involved is asked to email Robinson and Valentine at youth@volunteercr.ca.

Campbell RiverVolunteer

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