Working With Children and Youth During the Pandemic: No More High-fives
The situation is certainly unfavourable but still we are aware we are taking part in a solidarity project. I think it is a good way to show this solidarity and do our best.
Dealing with Corona pandemic is a new experience for all of us and certainly something we will always remember. It has marked our history, taken many lives and brought unrest into our worlds. Despite it, life goes on and we try to live more or less normally fulfilling our duties and hoping the pandemic will end soon. But what abouth children and youth, how do they react to the invisible enemy?
I started with my ESC project in September and before moving to my new place of living, Furstenwalde in Brandenburg, I was afraid that my project might be postponed. My project takes place in a school’s daycare club. Since the time I applied for my project kindergartens and schools have constantly been under the threat of being closed. Still I am here, working quite normally. In this article I will explore the following: difficulties working with children due to the hygiene measures, children's perceptions of the pandemic and challenges to establish a meaningful contact while wearing a mask.
In order to do this, I asked my friends Melanie from Austria and Juliette from France, who are doing their ESC projects in Berlin to share their experiences for the Youth Reporter.
Melanie is working at children and youth club „Oktopus“ and Juliette at youth centre „Königstadt”. Melanie explained that the children are already used to the Corona rules, but it is still weird for everyone:
It is very noticeable when we play games, that we can do no high-fives anymore or tap on someone’s shoulder, everything feels very distanced. Also, the children have to sign themselves everyday in a daily list (Corona Notification Paper), disinfect their hands when they come and wear a mask the whole time when they are inside. You can feel they are annoyed by this system and they are missing the old days.
Juliette said that she understands the importance of protection against the virus but despite it she feels uncomfortable with the rules because they have the sad quality of pushing people away from each other. She shares:
Teenagers and young people are definitely very aware of the situation. I noticed that less of them come to talk to us since the rules were re-enforced. Obviously, a big part of them are simply not coming any longer because it is not recommended but it also seems like some of them don't feel as comfortable as they were before this strict way of behaving got enforced.
I was wondering if work and creativity are less efficient and productive due to the many constraints caused by a pandemic. Juliette told me:
Sadly, the current situation doesn't allow me to create a proper good relationship with the young people. Even though I really appreciate my volunteering experience, the part involving creating bonding with teenagers is unfortunately made very difficult by the Corona situation. The Corona rules are indeed not facilitating any kind of relationships. For instance, my German is far from perfect and talking with someone with a mask on is really not the easiest thing ever for me. Social distance can also create a weird gap between people, physically and morally.
Melanie pointed out:
I would not say that the quality of my engagement is less effective or productive, because we need to think more and be more creative with the projects we can implement for the children. As an example, one of the positive effects of that are, that we made a lot of games and projects outside and did more in the nature, when we also realised, that the children started to appreciate more their surroundings outside and the fresh air.
Despite many barriers, Melanie and Juliette do not regret coming to Berlin and spending their volunteer year working with the kids. They hope too, that the year 2021 will bring more fun and peace to all of us. I absolutely agree with them. The situation is certainly unfavourable but still we are aware we are taking part in a solidarity project. I think it is a good way to show this solidarity and do our best.
Instead of a conclusion, I will share an inspiring quote that Melanie sent me, which could be our motto: If you feel like you are losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and still they stand tall and wait for better days to come.