17 Jun 2020 For Southwest Florida Children, Being Socially Isolated Doesn’t Mean Being Alone
No doubt, these are trying times. But for Southwest Florida children from Pre-K through fifth grade, who developmentally thrive and learn best in structured routines, the effects of COVID-shuttered schools requiring them to isolate at home has been especially difficult.
The certainties of a school regimen and the essential learning that naturally occurs through the social interactions that accompany a typical day have been replaced with confusion, uncertainty and anxiety. The pressures that accompany such stressful emotions oftentimes lead to the rise of self-defeating behavioral issues as children struggle to adapt socially and find the emotional stability that will support their continued healthy development.
But being socially isolated doesn’t have to mean being alone. Committed to providing children the foundational skills they need to sustain their well-being and develop socially, emotionally and academically, Charity for Change is working to help children and their families navigate these troubled waters as it builds on more than a decade of community service.
The nonprofit organization’s goal is to cultivate confident, compassionate children who become successful learners as they contribute to their schools and communities, as well as prepare them to participate in an increasingly diverse society as empathetic, ethical, tolerant and self-reliant citizens. Charity for Change focuses on a whole–child approach that includes social–emotional learning in order to develop positive behaviors, learning through service to others, math and language skills, and developing the kind of positive character traits that lay the groundwork for children to become resilient adult members of the community.
“Social-emotional learning reinforces children’s ability to recognize and process emotions in a healthy way that contributes to their ability to make good decisions even during times of high stress,” says Karen Conley, Charity for Change’s founder who serves as president and CEO.
Ms. Conley says such a focus is essential and will become even more vital whenever the new “normal” school environment is established. “We’re working to help bridge the gap between the current situation our kids are facing and what the future of schooling might bring,” she says. “Their lives have been so disrupted, there’s uncertainty surrounding their return to school and what that experience will look like.”
With the COVID crisis disrupting the organization’s in-school, afterschool, summer school and preschool programs, Charity for Change fast-tracked a distance-learning idea that had been bubbling.
Called GiverTV, the interactive, animated video program features Charity for Change’s lovable, kid-favorite mascots – Giver, an enthusiastic monkey; and U2Can, a colorful toucan. The approximately 10-minute, online videos include real-world examples of key character traits and activities families can do together to help their communities, along with science experiments, charitable crafts and downloadable learning activities. The teaching content will also be available free to schools once they reopen.
“When our schools were closed virtually overnight, we needed to connect with the kids to let them know we’ll all get through this together,” Ms. Conley says. “Giver, our mascot, is a real hero for the kids. When Giver makes an appearance at school assemblies, it’s like you’re at a rock concert,” she adds with a smile. “We had to let the kids know their buddy Giver is thinking about them and is with them. Plus, GiverTV will help us reach far beyond the classroom in the future.”
Ms. Conley says the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s unwavering support during these unprecedented times has been critical.
“The Community Foundation has meant the world to us throughout this pandemic. They immediately reached out to tell all the grant recipients, ‘We’re here, we’re with you, and we will continue to be with you.’ To me, that was the epitome of servant leadership. And their lifting of grant restrictions allowed us the flexibility to use funding for operations, which has made it possible for us to keep moving forward.”
Moving forward. That notion perfectly captures the mission of Charity for Change, whose whole–child approach fosters a foundation upon which each boy and girl can build individual stories of success – in school, in families, in communities and in life.
This article is part of a summer series that highlights the vital work of regional recipients of 2020 Community Impact Grants from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.