It’s hard to remember our lives before they shut down due to the pandemic. We were abruptly put on hold and we all had to make adjustments to what we knew as ‘normal’. We suffered, endured, and as humanity always does, we persisted and found a way to adapt. During the pandemic, we heard the phrase the ‘New Normal’, not knowing what it truly meant. Well, we are living it in our current lives. The pandemic feels like a distant memory, a brief pause to find new ways to live. As we always say at UKSD, every adversity is an opportunity to create something better and stronger and if we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem.
Here in the U.S., we are lucky enough to be pretty much back to where we were before the pandemic. We must be grateful however, for the opportunities that Covid presented us. Our everyday work through UKSD has always remained the same, before, during, and after Covid. We strive to create opportunities for young people too better their lives, become positive active citizens, and create a better world to live in. The pandemic allowed us to take a step back and develop new and improved ways to accomplish this.
Due to this opportunity, we have been able to develop new strategies and initiatives that have actually increased our impact both locally and overseas. The bread and butter of our program has been our KidzPlay4FreeProject. Recently, we have enhanced this initiative to not only provide free of charge sports programming to young people as way to develop life skills and raise awareness about social issues. We are now working more closely with schools to help build peer to peer connections across all grades form K-12 while helping to advance educational literacy skills, within the youth we work with. Our active citizenship initiatives have grown beyond anything that we could have ever imagined. Due to the new virtual world, we have been able to develop strong realtionships with like minded organizations across the globe. These programs have helped to create projects that have created a deeper understanding of other cultures while collaborating on projects that have literally changed lives and bettered some of the most poverty stricken communities on the planet. Due to this, we have revamped our programming slightly and created two new initiatives, Projects Through Play and the Sustainability Project.
The PTP initiative has allowed us to use our experiences from the previous decade and develop an initiative that uses what we have learned, to help encourage others to use their platform, whether educator, leader, or student, to create their own change. We have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to immerse ourselves within the Barnstable Public School system to run professional development for teachers, create student dropout prevention and engagement initiatives, and work alongside educational professionals to help develop programming that aligns with the mainstream educational system. We call this way of learning Experiential Education. This style of learning allows participants to use a blend of purposeful play and project based learning to create positive civic action. So far, all involved have expressed how this style of learning has created a deeper level of understanding and developed more social awareness about the challenges that we all face.
The sustainability project was born out of the demand from our alums. Former high school UKSD members who have moved on to their adult lives were eager to find ways to continue the work that had guided them through their own teenage years. After a few discussions, we were left with little doubt to create something that would give them the platform to do so. Members of the this initiative are known as UKSD Ambassadors. Although there is still a small level of facilitation to help guide and connect them to the UKSD network, these ambassadors are working together to develop new initiatives that they are personally devoted too. It is our hope that these individuals will use the UKSD platform to create their own projects and initiatives that they can be passionate about for the rest of their lives.
Although recent times have been difficult, we believe that we have used this adversity to find solutions. The way that life is, we know that there will be other times of adversity ahead and when they arise, we will buckle up our boot straps and keep moving forwards. For now though, we are excited for the next chapter of our journey….
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