VIRTUAL PEN PAL PROGRAM
Because everyone should have someone.
Social connections are a vital part of our lives and, for many people, mental health can suffer greatly without them. We are launching a unique self-matching "virtual pen pal" program to support parents and caregivers who are struggling or feeling disconnected from the world right now. To register, we only require your first name, email address, and the age(s)/grade(s) of your child(ren) to connect you with other parents and/or caregivers in the Greater Vancouver area. Participants will be sent a link to a secret Facebook group (not visible to the public) that is separate from our Community Chat and we will start things off by making a simple introduction post for each member. You will then be able to post a comment below your introduction with additional details that you wish to share - like a mini profile - and you will be able to browse around to find other parents/caregivers in similar situations who are looking for a little more than a Facebook group to chat in. Vancouver Virtual Families has decided on a self-matching process to allow service users the freedom to connect with someone they feel that they click with. Once you have found your 'match', you will be asked to leave the matching group, though you will be able to communicate with us in our general Community Chat group. Matched pen pals may continue their conversations in whichever way they wish - video calls, texting, or simply via email or Facebook! We have created some general guidelines that you can view below and hope that pen pals commit to a certain level of support and participation.
PLEASE NOTE: Due to the overwhelming interest in our Kindergarten Connections 2020 Program, we are temporarily putting our Virtual Pen Pal Program on hold. As we get closer to the end of the school year and begin to wrap up the virtual Kindergarten orientation initiative, we will once again focus our efforts on the Pen Pal Program. We will still be accepting applications but no new enrollments will be processed until further notice. Thank you so much for your ongoing support!
THE PEN PAL CODE OF HONOUR
We kindly ask that all pen pals make a small commitment so that we can ensure everyone who enrolls in the program receives a similar level of support. While you are free to schedule more contact with your pen pal if you both wish, we ask that everyone stick to the following guidelines:
1. Try your best to check in with each other every 2-3 days. It can be hard to reach out to someone you just met, but we challenge you to occasionally send a simple "How was your day?"
2. Be HONEST. If you really don't feel like you click with your pen pal, tell us! We are happy to allow you back into the group to re-match with someone else. Enter this 'relationship' with an open mind and be understanding if your pen pal is in need of something a little different. It doesn't mean you aren't perfect for someone else! Rather than 'ghosting' someone (which can make someone feel even worse), just talk it out! However, in the unlikely event that there appear to be serious safety concerns we recommend phoning your local police non-emergency line for advice.
3. Some basic ground rules: be kind, courteous (ie. do not text or call someone numerous times in a row if they don't respond), and don't be afraid to tell someone you need a day or two to decompress and tune out the world. You don't need to talk every day BUT...your pen pal is supposed to be there when you need support so don't be afraid to tell them you're struggling.
4. Contact us immediately if you have concerns about the health and/or safety of your pen pal. We will check in with them and involve the appropriate resources when necessary. If the individual has made a clear and direct threat to harm themself or someone else, call 911 immediately and inform our team after.
5. We strictly prohibit the sharing of a pen pal's personal information, including (but not limited to) screenshots of conversations/photos, names, phone numbers and/or things told to you in confidence (even if you attempt to 'de-identify' the person). This is a zero tolerance policy and you will be banned from the program immediately if this rule is not followed. The only exception to this rule is when you share information with our team because you have a reason to believe your pen pal is at risk of harming someone or being harmed OR if they have directly stated an intention to harm themself or someone else and you must give this information to 911 dispatch.
6. Follow the basic unwritten rules of being a thoughtful human. We shouldn't need to tell you what these are.
7. Please NO unsolicited advice. If you need advice, ask for it. If your pen pal just seems to be venting or trying to talk something out, that is not the time to offer what you think they need. If you just aren't sure whether advice is warranted...ask first.
8. Most importantly... LAUGH, CRY AND BE HUMAN. We all need a safe, judgement-free space right now. You and everyone around you are feeling so much these days and sometimes tensions run high in the household because of how differently people cope. Whether you are a single parent or have a partner and five children, sometimes it's nice to have just one person who has a good listening ear and zero expectations of us.
We see you. We hear you. We stand with you - because everyone needs someone in their corner.
Please provide us with the following information so we can add you to our Virtual Pen Pal Program Facebook group. Once you request access to this group, we will make your introduction post. As we are just launching this program, please be patient while we build our 'match' list over the coming weeks. While only your first name, the age(s) of your child(ren), and email address is required, there is room to provide additional information if you would like us to include anything else in your introduction post. Your email address will not be posted in our Facebook group.