Prior to the pandemic, the newly opened Kenora Youth Wellness Hub had put in place a robust suite of in-person services which included primary care, sexual health, mental health, substance use, educational and employment supports, cultural and recreational programming, and service navigation support. Social distancing requirements and group size limitations meant that the hub had to close its’ doors and find creative ways to support the youth in this critical time.
Shifting to virtual services was a natural alternative; however, responding to the array of needs of youth in the community while simultaneously building awareness of the available service meant implementing a multi-pronged approach that included strategies for outreach and engagement, and facilitating access to technology.
- Created a Youth Navigation line to replace in-person navigation supports provided at the hub. Monitored by hub staff, youth call in for help navigating or connecting to services, or to chat casually with a Youth Navigator.
- Set up daily online programming via social media, including engagement-building activities, call-in counselling, live weekly videos on health & nutrition (hosted by a dietician), culturally based teachings and programming activities (“Ask Kookum”, hosted by a grandmother). Viewership and social media following continues to steadily increase as content is shared, continuously building community awareness of hub service offerings.
- Lack of access to technology meant information may not be reaching some youth who need it, and not all youth had a phone to be able to make use of the hub’s remote offerings. To address this issue, the Hub initiated a used phone drive, which brought in 18 phones, for which the Hub secured funds to purchase data plans. The Hub also received 19 new cell phones with data plans included, generously donated to YWHO by Rogers and Bell. The Youth Hub facilitated set-up & distribution of the devices based on need and equity considerations.
- Engaged with the Hub’s Youth Advisory Council to develop two online promotion & outreach campaigns. The first campaign invited youth to like, comment, and tag a friend, to gain entry to a giveaway draw. The prize package included over $500 of merchandise including a speaker & gift certificates for local businesses. The campaign successfully generated over 500 comments and increased followers by 150+ people. The second campaign was focused on supporting youth wellness by increasing a sense of connection to help youth cope with feelings of isolation. The Hub team put together a Self-Care Gift Pack Nomination Program supported by a generous $2000 grant from the Kenora and Lake of the Woods District Community Foundation. Friends and family members were invited to nominate a youth to receive a self-care package, complete with a handwritten note for the nominee to create a sense of personalization and connection.
- Close physical doors of the Hub due to pandemic restrictions.
- Consultation with the Youth Advisory Council.
- Reallocating resources and applying for grant funds.
- Advertising services and supports available.
- Continue building social media presence to engage with youth & families.
For more information on Strategies for Engaging with Youth Remotely, contact Jackie Franck, email@example.com