The art of the possible - one youth group's response to a global pandemic
Cupar Youth Café talks about their response to young people’s isolation and the need to keep youth work alive.
Quizzes, online scavenger hunts, bake-it, the CYC Badge Challenge, Earth Day 2020, Meet the Wellbeing Ambassadors, PE with Joe, doorstep drop-off’s, the Daily Check-in LIVE, skype chats, song writing challenge, Discord, launching TikTok, 16+ Programme online - these are just some of the things we delivered online over Lockdown.
Cupar Youth Café is part of Cupar YMCA-YWCA based in rural North East Fife. Our busy space, offers young people a safe and young person focussed venue to turn up, drop in, hangout and get involved. Our week consists of at least seven sessions per week. When lockdown hit and our building closed, the team responded quickly to take our youth work online and keep the young people engaged in some form of ‘normal’.
We had to act fast. Our organisation already used Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to engage locally, but never did we think that this would be our only way to keep in touch with young people. We had to think creatively about keeping the connections going.
We began with a private Facebook group for our Wellbeing Ambassadors, who were undertaking in-house training to help support their peers within the project. We met weekly with this group via Skype to find out the best way to keep young people engaged, encourage others to join us and to check-in on some of the young people we were working with. They were an invaluable resource to influencing our work and telling us what was working.
The Daily Check-in
‘Live’ was a huge aspect of our lockdown response. We were ‘live’ between 12pm and 2pm, with youth workers responding to mails and comments. Young people came by to ‘check-in’ every day, just to say hi. They liked to know we were there in real time and it helped to build on our connections.
Partnership working was a key element and our partners at Fife Council CLD were intrinsic to the work. We were involved in the delivering of Lockdown Loot bags to young people; it was also a way to doorstep drop and check-in. Packs included a four-week programme, to encourage young people to join us online. This is when we discovered Discord. One of our colleagues in Fife had successfully piloted this platform. After various training and research meetings, locally and nationally, we figured it was worth a bash. We recruited two of our Wellbeing Ambassadors to volunteer, helping us build our server. Within one week, we had 48 members, 7 different channels and a programme of delivery that mirrored our normal delivery week…it worked!
“I feel keeping connections with CYC is important during lockdown because not everyone has strong relationships with those at home or are not used to being isolated. Having a place to discuss struggles with others and distract ourselves from the effects of the pandemic is so uplifting and much needed.”
Young Person, aged 16
Moving into summer, we continued to offer our weekly Discord chats, a summer of song writing from our Music Space Project and some weekly fun from the youth work team.
The response from our young people has been inspiring and has made us realise the value and impact it can have on their lives. Trying to be there when you aren’t is a challenge but we responded. We learned and we tried as many ways as possible to continue to make our youth work delivery, young person-led and a service that can meet their needs, even during lockdown.