IRC Denver Youth Department Piloting Virtual Programming for Refugees
The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably posed significant challenges for the school-aged youth we serve. Due to the extended periods of remote learning, many youth have experienced feelings of isolation from peers, disconnection from their schools, and a lack of support in their educational development. Recognizing this, the IRC Denver Youth team, with generous support from the Caring For Colorado Foundation, developed responsive programming in an attempt to meet these needs while working within safety protocols to ensure client, volunteer, and staff well-being.
The program is a hybrid model spanning 20 weeks and incorporating both psychosocial and academic support for youth between the ages of 9 and 21. Each week the youth participants meet their peers in virtual sessions facilitated by an IRC staff member and an intern or volunteer. The 20 weeks are split into five-week activities, which include therapeutic art, yoga and movement, dance, and picture storytelling. The components of each weekly session are framed around one or more of the social emotional assets as identified in the IRC SEAD Toolkit; these include a focus on self-esteem, developing positive relationships, emotional understanding, communication, and future orientation.
Students also have the option to work with a volunteer tutor as an added layer of support. The volunteer tutors provide trauma-informed and strengths-based academic support while assisting the youth with their homework, their English language development, or with digital literacy.
The results of the program have been overwhelmingly positive. Youth clients who regularly attend have been exposed to new activities while engaging with adults and their peers in a safe and welcoming environment. In addition, the same youth have access to ongoing academic support to help them succeed in school during an otherwise incredibly challenging year. Finally, from an organizational standpoint, this has provided us additional information on best practices for engaging with youth in a remote setting and has helped lay the groundwork for a robust and sustainable youth support program in the months and years to come.
How You Can Help
If you would like to support ongoing services to refugee youth, you can make a donation at rescue.org/denver or mail donations to IRC Denver 1873 S Bellaire St Suite 500 Denver CO 80222
By Sidney Bittman, Covid Rapid Response Specialist, IRC Denver