Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Wisconsin found innovative ways to be together and have fun during the Safe At Home restrictions. Now that those are lifted, most “Bigs” and “Littles” are safely together again.
By Johnna Van Deurzen, Development Coordinator, Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Wisconsin
When COVID-19 first started, we had no idea the length of time that our communities would be asked to social distance from each other. However, we quickly realized the damage it could do on a child’s well-being. The loss of school interactions and support, the changes in daily routine, and the additional pressures being placed on parents all had the potential to impact the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of children and their families.
We took to social media, to our agency supporters, and most importantly, to our current matches to make we shared that social distancing did NOT have to mean social isolation. We made sure to advocate for relationships as a basic human need and to minimize the effects of social isolation with creative new methods of mentoring.
Our Bigs rose to the occasion and took creativity to the next level. Video calls, weekly and even daily check-ins have become the norm. Some matches are working on crafts and learning new skills together virtually. One Big Brother wrote and recorded an original song for his Little Brother to remind him he has someone in his corner.
This match is supported by the Al & Phyllis Malak Foundation through the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.
When the state’s Safe at Home restrictions were first in place, we made over 40 new matches, started Virtual Big Meet-Ups so that Bigs can support each other, and created new match activities like virtual Bingo. To ensure the health and safety for all matches, we will continue to offer virtual enrollment, match making, and match engagement activities for the foreseeable future.
Now that the Safer At Home restrictions have lifted, we’ve left the activities up to the Bigs and Littles, and most are back to doing activities together taking the usual precautions with masks and safe distancing.
I am proud of the way our entire team, agency, and board of directors have adjusted course to meet the evolving needs of our Littles during this time. And I am beyond impressed at the courage and commitment our Bigs have shown. We have always known that we are stronger when we work together and COVID-19 has demonstrated our ability to live out our core value: Together, we are Bigger!
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In addition to the Al & Phyllis Malak Foundation, several other funds within the Community Foundation have supported Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Wisconsin, including SECURA Insurance Companies Charitable Fund, Jewelers Mutual Charitable Giving Fund, Helen Hardt Family Fund, Prospera Foundation Fund and the Bright Idea Fund.