Durham College has received funding to help young people who are experiencing social isolation in northern parts of the region during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The college will be working with Big Brothers Big Sisters North Durham by studying relationships between mentors and mentees between the ages of six and 18 to enhance virtual mentorship.
Crystal Garvey, a Durham College professor and one of the project’s key researchers, says the goal is to help kids manage their anxiety during times of social isolation, while still being able to form a meaningful bond with their mentor.
“We’re doing data collection, finding out the impacts social isolation really has had on our ‘littles,’ but not only the social isolation, but mental health and mental wellness,” she said.
“It really has impacted our community.”
The project will be funded through a $75,000 Applied Research Rapid Response to COVID-19 grant awarded to the college by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Once complete, the data collected will then be shared with BBBSND.
“Not only is it going to help us develop virtual mentoring that is evidence-based, it’s going to help us in terms of how do we digitally recruit volunteers, mentees,” said BBBSND program manager Cheryl Holmes.
The national level of the organization will also be given the data, with the intent of helping agencies across the country.
In north Durham, Holmes says resources for youth facing socio-economic and mental health challenges were already scarce to begin with.
“The need for mentorship increases the further we get away from urban centres.”
The organization estimates 75 per cent of the youth they work with deal with anxiety on a regular basis, and the pandemic has only made it worse.
For 14-year-old Scugog teen Natasha Nicholson, she says the most unfortunate part about the pandemic is not being able to see her mentor, Emily.
“Not being able to be around Emily as much as I used to be and not being able to hug her because I haven’t hugged her since March,” Nicholson said.
Garvey says the study is expected to be up and running in the upcoming months.