While 2020 caused many volunteer opportunities to cease, one local organization, Project Friendship, had the opposite happen. Their mentor/mentee relationship numbers grew!
For the first time ever mentors and mentees were able to meet from wherever they were in the world. When mentors were sent home due to the pandemic mentoring continued. Not only did it continue, but it grew. Project Friendship has matched 102 mentees with a mentor since the pandemic started. That means 102 mentors and mentees have never met in person. They typically meet for one hour a week via zoom, or any other virtual way they choose. These pairs do things like create a collaborative Spotify playlist, virtual show and tell, play online games together, talk via phone calls, play www.thehogwartsescape.com, have fun with Youtube Karaoke, and visit museums virtually. Did you know you can ride the rides at Disney World virtually? Mentors and mentees write songs, poems or raps together, have book clubs together and when the book is finished they have a virtual movie night, they have zoom lunches together and see who can make the biggest food pyramid, the mentee teaches the mentor about something they are interested in, and they check out cool world records together. The list of activities the mentors have come up with to do with their mentee is endless.
“Our mentors are brilliant and our kids are resilient!” said Executive Director Holly Schoenbauer. “Mentors continued to mentor from wherever they were. We had mentors in several US States, Denmark, and more! While we all know 2020 was a difficult year, it also taught us that my quote is true! Mentors are Brilliant, Kids are Resilient! It also was the first time that mentoring continued through the summer months. Now we know our connections can continue and serve no matter the month!”
Mentors are looking for ways to connect. Mentors, frequently college students, are plenty busy with their studies, but they enjoy the outlet provided by Project Friendship; even for an hour a week they get to get away from the stress and changes of COVID-19 and just hang out with their little buddies. Regardless of where the mentors are physically, they can virtually be with their mentees week after week. Project Friendship had a new match meet up with a child here in Northfield while her mentor was studying abroad in January in Denmark. There is another mentor who is currently studying in Costa Rica and is meeting weekly with his mentee. Mentors have met with their mentees, who are here in Northfield, from all over the world this year. “My own daughter (age 10) has a mentor who is from Texas, and I have heard no less than 10 times that her mentor lives next door to a goat farm. AND her mentor took her virtually to the goat farm to check out the baby goats all the way down in Texas,” commented Schoenbauer.
Currently, mentors and mentees are working on an art project which will put something physically into the kids’ hands. Project Friendship is partnering with the Northfield Arts Guild to have the mentors and mentees create a Masterpiece of art together virtually. These works of art will be on display all over Northfield May 15 – June 12, 2021 (over St Olaf and Carleton commencements). Later this spring there will be a list of where all the art projects can be found.
Parents report that this has been a tough year for their kids, but when they are meeting with their mentors parents hear their children laughing again. Parents are looking for safe ways to get their kids connected and they are finding those ways in Project Friendship.
To all the amazing mentor volunteers, thank you!!