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Adapting to New Ways of Working

Wednesday 3rd February 2021

With Regional activities and events not able to take place in the same way at this time, this issue’s Focus article looks at how Companies across the Brigade have adapted in the current circumstances and continued to provide children and young people with opportunities to experience “life to the full”. We hope you might find some ideas or inspiration for things you could do in your own Company, Battalion or District.

We’d like to say a big thank you to our leaders and their partner Churches/venues for all their work in providing a safe return to face-to-face activities or, for groups where this hasn’t yet been possible, engaging with children and young people by other means including by running virtual sessions and sharing #BBatHOME activities.

Meeting in innovative ways

Some Companies have come up with alternative ways of meeting face-to-face, particularly where their usual meeting space hasn’t yet reopened or where a bigger venue was needed to operate within our guidance framework.

2nd Tonbridge is fortunate to have a great relationship with Tonbridge Angels Football Club, a community-based team which plays in the sixth tier of English football and whose ground is located on the same road as the Church where the Company is based.

When the Company began discussing a return to face-to- face activities, it became clear that they would be unable to use their normal meeting space. Rather than meeting in their local park, where they would have had no shelter, Tonbridge Angels offered use of its secure, floodlit field and marquee at their ground. This meant that all age groups were able to meet on Friday evenings as usual, with enough space to have socially distanced games and activities in smaller groups.

The arrangement has also helped the Club to maintain its close links with the community, which is a priority to them.

When their Council’s Covid-19 restrictions stopped them from using their usual meeting space in a primary school, 4th Lossiemouth launched an appeal to find a short-term venue. Despite facing their own challenges, a local pub came to the rescue by offering use of its function room free of charge. The room hadn’t been used for several years, but has its own dedicated entrance, toilets and kitchen which allowed the Company to resume meeting face-to-face.

James Allan, 4th Lossiemouth’s Captain praised the venue for their help whilst suffering as a result of the pandemic, commenting: “It’s really good community spirit, thinking of and helping others when they are in need of help and support themselves.”

Virtual Sessions with a difference

Although running Virtual Sessions is a great way of maintaining contact with children and young people where meeting face-to-face is not possible, we realise that planning a varied weekly programme can be challenging.

Anchors at 10th Enfield were joined at one of their Virtual Sessions by the team from an animal discovery centre, bringing them a virtual animal encounter and giving the children the opportunity to meet and learn about a variety of animals.

As part of their involvement in UK Parliament Week, 7th Doncaster ran a Virtual Session where they were joined by their Member of Parliament and one of their local Councillors, giving the young people the opportunity to learn about how parliament works and discuss democracy with their elected representatives.

Bringing in external involvement such as these examples can be a great way of enhancing your Virtual Sessions, and as you’re running virtually you won’t necessarily be limited only to organisations in your local area! If you are planning Virtual Sessions for the coming weeks and months, why not consider who you could approach to get involved?

Alternative ways of engaging

If your Company is not in a position to run face-to-face or Virtual Session activities at this time, there are plenty of other ways of maintaining engagement with children and young people.

58th Belfast has been sharing weekly, pre-recorded videos for each age group on their Facebook page. These videos have included messages from leaders as well as activities and challenges for children and young people to try at home, along with practical demonstrations to follow. Well done to the team at 58th Belfast for all your efforts in putting together some fantastic opportunities for the boys each week.

Lots of Companies have been making up care/activity packs to either hand deliver or post out to members, which is another great way of maintaining engagement. These could include craft resources, activity sheets or #BBatHOME activity ideas, or if you’re running Virtual Sessions could include resources for children and young people to use as part of these. Another option is to include activities that are linked to a particular event (for example Easter) to encourage involvement in these.

Welcoming new members

We’ve seen lots of Companies welcoming new members over the last few months, whether it has been at face-to-face meetings or as a result of getting involved in Virtual Session or #BBatHOME activities.

Despite the obvious challenges faced by many Companies, over 1,000 children and young people have started out on their BB adventure since face-to-face activities were first suspended in March 2020.

Encouragement from Parents/Carers

It is clear that keeping BB going in uncertain times has a positive impact on children and young people, and many of you will have had encouraging comments from parents/carers.

Carolyn, a parent whose two sons are members of 1st Uxbridge, told us: “My sons have been meeting on Zoom with 1st Uxbridge since the beginning of the session. We had a brilliant introduction email from the Captain explaining the structure for safe face-to- face sessions and then followed up with their Church-approved plans.”

“Like many other Companies, the plan was to have the first face-to-face meeting after the October half term. On the Virtual Session before half term, the Anchors were shown a video of the staff walking them through the new planned routine on the premises, where and who they will meet, and what will happen at face-to-face sessions. This was fabulously reassuring for both children and parents.”

“As the circumstances changed, they continued with Virtual Sessions every other week. We were also sent activity packs; one week we had emojis to hide around the house for the children to find (and the parents as we had forgotten where we had hidden them!) and then for a week we weren’t meeting we made cookies and sent in pictures of the children’s creations and messy kitchens.”

“The staff are working incredibly hard and keeping the children engaged. My boys certainly look forward to their Virtual Sessions and can’t wait to get back to ‘normal’ BB when possible.”

Fundraising activities

COVID-19 will undoubtedly have had an impact on the funds of Companies, whether through subs not being paid or fundraising events being cancelled. We have seen Companies taking the opportunity to look at their fundraising needs and doing things a bit differently in the circumstances.

1st Lenzie did this by getting involved in our Fundraising Challenge, with leaders walking a combined 270 miles – the distance between Glasgow and Thurso in Scotland. By doing this the Company was able to exceed its £1,000 target and raise vital funds to support their work with children and young people this session.

If you are looking for ideas of what you could do to raise funds, check out the Toolbox article later in this issue or our Fundraising Challenge at boys-brigade.org.uk/fundraising-challenge

Support from Battalions/Districts

A number of Battalions and Districts have been active in providing practical support to Companies in their areas, including by holding virtual get togethers for leaders, providing resources to assist Companies in returning to face-to-face activities, and more.

Northern Ireland District was able to secure funding of £50,000 from the NI Education Authority to resource and support Companies in restarting youth provision. The District has sent a BB-branded ‘Restart Kit’ to every Company in Northern Ireland, containing resources/ideas to use with all age groups during face-to-face meetings, Covid-19 safety posters, postcards/ flyers to attract new members as well as re-engage with existing members and badges linking to our Vision, Mission and Values.

The funding is also enabling the District to deliver a mental health project in collaboration with the Christian charity Made for More, recognising the impact that lockdown has had on the mental health of many children and young people. The Education Authority funding will enable BB to provide training, programs, workshops and resources for young people to help them work towards good emotional well-being at this uncertain time in their lives – all of this can be delivered face-to face or virtually.

Northamptonshire Battalion, via its Battalion trust fund, has supported Companies by paying their capitation fees this session. The fund is traditionally used to subsidise Battalion activities and events as well as provide small grants to Companies. For this session, to recognise the pressure faced by local Companies and BB Headquarters as a result of COVID-19, the fund was used to make this generous offer as a way of stepping up and providing support.

The support has been welcomed by all of the Companies in Northamptonshire and has meant that they were confidently able to start this session. Companies were also encouraged to make an additional contribution to BB Headquarters where it was possible to do so.

London District has funded activity packs that have been sent to Companies, with a focus on supporting those that are unable to meet face-to-face or run Virtual Sessions. The packs contain resources to enable continued engagement with children and young people, by providing activities and ideas that they can try at home.

If your Battalion/District is not yet doing so, why not consider what could be done to support Companies in your area? There are lots of possibilities including resources for children and young people to use, new or adapted competitions/challenges that can be done at home, or virtual social gatherings or idea sharing opportunities for leaders.

Looking for ideas?

Our Leaders Group on Facebook is a great place to share ideas and experiences with others, and includes regular contributions from BB Headquarters.

You can join the group at facebook.com/groups/thebbleaders

Don’t forget that our Programme Hub remains available, with over 300 activities suitable for Face-to-Face (socially distanced), Virtual Session and #BBatHOME settings, and more being added each month!

Check out the Programme Hub at boys-brigade.org.uk/programme

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