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Calgary’s Cornerstone Youth Centre moves to online resources for coronavirus isolated kids

Cornerstone Youth Centre is planning to reach out through technology to kids who are in coronavirus isolation and at-risk.

Cornerstone has two locations in Calgary that help youth to develop resiliency and life-skills through after-school programs. They’ve shut-down their facilities to stop the spread of COVID-19, said Jeff Gray, executive director at Cornerstone Youth.

“We were the first round of mandatory closures for after-school programs, so we’ve banded together with other non-for-profit groups to help-out youths who are stuck at home and aren’t able to access our typical brick-and-mortar youth centre,” said Gray.

At this time, Cornerstone Youth is implementing online plans that will start The hope is to connect with the kids through live-streaming via Facebook from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. every day from Monday to Friday, he said.

Checking-in on isolation

Cornerstone will be experimenting with programs that were previously available to them. Cooking, music, crafts, or help with academics will be available. Programs will be shown through a first-person view via online camera, Gray said.

“Quite a few of the kids that Cornerstone Youth work with have parents that are essential workers, and are at work throughout the day,” he said.

“Cornerstone’s hope is to give kids a human interaction at home. It’s also to give kids something to check into every day.”

Gray said kids with addiction issues or are experiencing abuse is something Cornerstone would deal with on a normal day, but believes now is a time where reaching out to kids is especially important.

The idea was to create a platform where youth have somebody who can check in with them, Gray said. Staff can talk to them about how they’re doing, have the uncomfortable conversations that they aren’t ready to have with their parents and help kids make a referral to resources if need be.

“When teens are completely isolated, where they don’t have friends, and their parents aren’t in the home at all, that extreme isolation can be really anxiety-inducing and can exacerbate depression that they’re already experiencing.”

Your’re already on your phone anyways

Gray and his staff have consulted with the kids they work with on what to do for online activities.

“We feel that providing them programs they’ve chosen, and that they’re interested in, they will consume it,” he said.

“A lot of these kids are already on digital devices anyways.”

Gray does not expect attendance from everyone, everyday. Kids will attend Cornerstone’s livestream when something that they’ve asked for is happening.

“Someone might ask that they’re struggling to make friends, and will ask for a program to help with that, and so they’ll tune in for those programs,” he said.

“If the kids aren’t leading the programs, then we’re kind of missing the mark.”

A bus load of food

On Tuesdays, Cornerstone Youth plans to have a food bank for the families of kids who access Cornerstone Youth services, said Gray.

A bus will be parked on Cornerstone Youth’s driveway at their Mayland Heights location. The backend of the bus will be open to grab food from 12 to 2 p.m.

Gray said there will be markers for distancing and they’ll be sanitizing the bus regularly.

The bus will be monitored via camera and microphone so staff can interact, said Gray.

“We wish it could be human interaction. Nothing fully substitutes that. But that is our best concept for defeating that need.”