Canadore College students have been busy since the end of April 2020 connecting with seniors in the North Bay-Parry Sound region who are facing isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program, The Village C.A.R.E.S initiative has helped students in the Social Service Worker and Mental Health and Addiction programs to complete the practical components of their programs by providing wellness and reassurance calls.
Officials at the college estimate the students have so far logged more than 400 hours of direct community support.
C.A.R.E.S stands for Compassion Calls, Assistance, Respect, Exchange, Supports.
This type of placement is believed to be the first of its kind for colleges. Not only has it provided a way for students to complete their program requirements instead of deferring their placements due to the pandemic, but at the same time supporting vulnerable people in our community.
Research shows that regular social contact reduces the risks and anxiety associated with being isolated. The calls have provided regular social contact and check-ins to ensure clients are coping with isolation. The students have been talking with their clients about topics of interest, current events, and even reading to them.
Dakota Heon, who is set to graduate from Canadore’s Social Service Worker program, is happy to be a part of the initiative.
“Not only have we been able to continue with our placements, but we have been able to utilize our newly acquired skills, knowledge, and resources in a new context,” said Heon. “More specifically, we have been able to address the social isolation brought upon by the pandemic. These calls have proven to be beneficial to clients who have shared their appreciation directly with us.”
“From a student perspective, I could not have asked for a better placement opportunity in such a challenging time,” Heon said in a release.
“Feedback from our community partners has been very positive and they have asked that this initiative continue throughout the year”, said Micheline McWhirter, The Village Collective Impact Project Manager at Canadore. “As these students are ending their placements, the calls will continue with the support of Canadore employees and summer students. We are also working with program coordinators to create ongoing placements with future students.”
“This project continues to develop new ways of reaching our community seniors, said Lisa McCool-Philbin, Dean, Faculty of Human and Social Science. “Together in collaboration, seniors and students inform us on how to enhance outreach which will serve as best practices for future projects.”
The Village is described as a world-class health and wellness facility that is providing a ground-breaking approach to educating the next generation of Canada’s health and social service professionals.
Officials say it is the first facility of its kind in Canada and blends Indigenous, Eastern, and Western health practices with student-led facilities.