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Calgary students launch joyful hotline to engage those in coronavirus isolation

Wouldn’t a joyful message lift your spirits during this time of coronavirus isolation?

A group of Calgary Board of Education students in the Ever Active Recreation Leadership program set out to brighten the lives of fellow citizens while we’re all cooped up.

The program is called Joy4all. It’s a hotline that provides pre-recorded stories, kind messages and jokes told by students. The site encourages anyone, especially youth, to contribute their own content to the hotline.

After student programs closed due to health guidelines, Jamie Anderson, teacher at Ever Active Schools, initially challenged his students to bring joyful messages to seniors in isolation.

“We still wanted to offer a volunteer project, but also recognized that the needs of the community were quickly changing,” Anderson said.

“Many folks are experiencing barriers to connection with others, so the students decided to bring messages of joy to phone lines to reach as many people as possible through the voices of youth.”

Students had started their planning for Joy4All less than a week ago, said Anderson.

Give Calgary something to look forward to

Ali Ahmad, 16, one of 21 students behind Joy4All, said the wanted to make a difference during this time.

“Through this project, we will be able to show our appreciation to people that are self-isolating and give them something they can always look forward to in their day. Hopefully, it can lighten the mood and help save lives,” he said.

Joy4All plans to evolve their project with crowdsourcing and changing community needs, said Anderson.

“Our outreach is twofold. We initially wanted to reach out to seniors, and people in old folks’ homes and hospitals, but we also want to bridge with other parts of the community, like families who are at home,” he said.

Currently, the hotline has five recorded messages. Students plan to add more options as the project continues. They’re hoping for more diverse story contributions, too.

“We want to recognize that there is a diverse population. We want to offer messages and stories in people’s familial languages,” said Anderson.

Program will go to June – and maybe beyond

Another student organizer for Joy4All, Jared Quinn, 20, said he can relate those who are dealing with isolated families.

“I’m doing this mainly because of my experiences with isolation, my mental health and my grandparents mental health. They live in a different province and they were supposed to come and visit, and now they can’t,” said Quinn.

The volunteer program has been planned to end in June. Anderson hopes students will continue their project for as long as the public health guidelines are in place.

“Students are interested in carrying out the project beyond the end of their course, but ultimately we haven’t gotten that far quite yet,” he said.

To hear a message from Joy4All, call (403) 209-4300 or 1-877-JOY-4ALL.

To submit a message, go to joy4all.ca