This September, our Teams in Witham and Whitley update us on what’s been happening in the last couple of months. There has been lots of exciting changes – enjoy the read 🙂

 

Witham Shift Associate Centre Update (Boys’ Brigade & Girls’ Association)

On the 17th of March, notice came down from the national Boys’ Brigade office to immediately stop all face-to-face programming.  Just as it was for people the world over, every aspect of life was changing for us.  By the end of that week, schools were closed and the entire country was in lockdown.  Young people, volunteers, and families were entering into what will likely be the most challenging year(s) of our lives.  Isolation, disruption, and uncertainty were part of the new “normal” that stretches on for months.

Nearly 200 people were active in the various aspects of Witham Boys’ Brigade & Girls’ Association programming and our most meaningful ways to interact personally with our community suddenly needed to be reinvented.  Some of those touchpoints were now impossible.  81 young people could no longer meet up for drop-in football on Mondays, school lunch clubs and assemblies were shelved, and our core programming; Anchors for 5-8 year olds, Juniors for 8-11 year olds and Company/Seniors for 11-18 year olds had to go online or not-at-all.

Tough decisions had to be made about funding, staffing, and resources.  Our administrative finance person, school worker and programming assistant all had to be furloughed.  Day-to-day operations, planning and leadership fell to John (the founder and Captain of Witham BB) and myself.  Zoom meetings were arranged for our core programmes (Anchors, Juniors and Company/Seniors) on a bi-weekly basis after families had a chance to settle in and it became clear there would be extensive shutdowns.

In the months that followed, adult leaders and young people continued to meet, share life and experiences.  We did our best to maintain the core values of Witham BB&GA (what we call The Four F’s) FUN, FRIENDSHIP, FAITH and FULLNESS of life.  Zoom® meetings became the conduit for keeping our people engaged with each other; creativity including quizzes, scavenger hunts, contests, online games, devotions, and story-telling all helped us stay connected even through the regular summer holidays.

We are now two weeks into our autumn session and it is so great to be back with so many of our people!  Things are familiar, but we are operating very differently than we ever have before.  We are socially together, but physically distant (keeping meters apart), we wash our hands, sanitize ourselves, our equipment, furniture and facility constantly.  We find ways to smile more with our eyes when we can’t see past the masks.  We do everything we can to protect our most vulnerable participants and volunteers. We hope we will be able to safely continue meeting.

On Friday, six months after it arrived, we were finally able to present one of our young people with the Boys’ Brigade President’s Commendation that he had been awarded just before lockdown.  Even this was very different from how we used to do things (we gathered outside, in the dark, in the car park under the only light available) the circumstances made it both unique and memorable.  The Town Mayor gave a short speech and handed him the certificate as well as a resolution from the Town Council.  This young man has faced daily challenges in his health and wellbeing throughout his life.  He comes to Brigade as often as he is able, always with a positive attitude, and fully participates even though every moment requires the full measure of his physical strength.  He is an inspiration to his peers and all of us who work with him on a regular basis.

We don’t know how the weeks and months will unfold, but we are committed to engaging our Brigade family however we are able to do so.  We appreciate being able to get together, even if the groups are smaller, the meetings are shorter, and the activities are somewhat limited.  We are so thankful that we’ve been able to keep so many of our young people coming along, our 11-18 programme has grown in numbers, and all of our volunteers are back this term.  Local schools are looking into how we can continue our lunch clubs and how we can help support staff and students.  It is a tribute to the relationships that are built when kingdom values are lived and modeled in our communities.  We’ll continue to adapt and be thankful for all the ways we can continue to advance Christ’s Kingdom here in Witham.  Challenging times for sure, but we’re all in this together!

~ Jason

Whitley Update

August saw us moving office during the hottest week of the year! We are still in the same building, but have moved upstairs to a bigger space. In this time of Covid-19, it has meant we are much better placed to have others in the office with us as we are able to be socially distanced from each other.

The office has been busy over July and August. We said farewell to Amy who had been our administrator for a few years, what a great blessing she has been. We welcomed Sandra for a month (she was on furlough from work) helping us get to grips with what is needed to set up a radio station, and Aneta joined us again after a few years away. We also said goodbye to Reneta, who has been interning with us for the past 15 months. We are so grateful to all those who volunteer with us – short or longer term.

As part of our ongoing training Claire and Anika did a level 2 in understanding children and young people’s mental health with our certificates arriving in the mail in late July. It’s so important we continue to learn more about the issues facing our young people and how we can support them.

The start of the school year has seen us back in JMA 2 days a week helping out in the sixth form. We are there primarily as pastoral care support for those students who are not part of the elite sports program the sixth form runs. A few weeks in and we have been running workshops on dealing with stress and anxiety, having some significant one-on-one chats with a few students, while helping others just navigate the changes sixth form brings.

 

Thank you for reading! We hope you are keeping safe and well.

Come back next month for another update 😊

 

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