HARTFORD, Conn — When the pandemic shut down businesses and organizations in Connecticut, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters knew it needed to act quickly to keep its mission going.
“The basis for our work has always been one-to-one face-to-face communications between caring adults and kids, so as Connecticut and the nation started to essentially close down because of the pandemic surging in the spring, there were serious concerns about what we would be able to do,” said Andy Fleischmann, President and CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters.
It knew it needed to change its business model to serve children who were already going through tough times in their lives.
“Our kids are vulnerable because of all the adverse childhood experiences they’ve had, and they’re even more vulnerable in times of isolation, so our team was very committed to keeping kids connected,” said Fleischmann.
The organization quickly developed and launched an online tool kit for mentors to use to find activities and games to connect virtually with their Littles. It’s grown into a dashboard that’s segmented by age level, interests and the best way to connect, whether that’s virtually or in-person while social distancing outside. Big Brothers and Big Sisters were also encouraged to set up a regular time each week to be in touch with their Littles.
“So that there’s a nice constant in their life in the midst of all this flux and change,” said Fleischmann.
For those children who were finding it hard to connect virtually, Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters also partnered with AT&T, which donated a hundred smartphones to children who needed them. The focus has been maintaining relationships in what has been a challenging time for everyone, and so far the organization has been successful.
“We’re still innovating and learning how to make this as engaging as possible for everyone concerned, and I think in some ways that’s like most industries and most workplaces. The work isn’t done,” said Fleischmann.
Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters also adds that mentors get a lot out of these relationships, too, especially during stressful times like these. If you want to become part of the program, visit https://nbbbs.org/