COVID-19 has put the whole world on hold and many people are showing signs of psychological distress as their personal and professional lives have been abruptly halted. To face head on this situation, support workers in employability organizations can also play a role as psychosocial support. Together with the people they assist, these professionals have many strategies and methods to cope with isolation. This article highlights the practises of Christie Salumu Mulimbi and Johanie Paquet, two Employment Counsellors and Support Workers at the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi Chauveau (CJEC) as they support participants looking for work during unprecedented times.
Presence of a Support Worker to Maintain Trust
“It’s not about focusing on the crisis’ negatives, but to be able to maintain connection” — Christie Salumu Mulimbi
Because of the reality that many work programs for youth are on hold, employment counsellors have the mandate to preserve the relationship with the young people they follow. For the two employment counsellors, maintaining the trust and relationship that existed long before the health crisis is essential. They empower and reassure young clients experiencing various emotions. The isolation felt by some seems to disappear in the presence of counsellors who successfully create a safety net around them. The support worker’s presence and support is the human touch that makes a big difference as professionals working with young people.
Adjusting Communication Methods
Since the CJEC is no longer receiving young people, several communications tools are available to reach out. Zoom, Messenger, the telephone or even email — support workers have access to everyone and make adjustments according to the person’s preferences. Instant messaging and telephone communication in particular are popular with clients. The tools are accessible and show us the ease and comfort that the young people would find in a face-to-face conversation during normal times. Employment counsellors and support workers must therefore juggle the different methods of communication and adjust to everyone’s needs and comfort.
Activities During a Time of Confinement
Support workers have no choice but to use their creativity to offer activities that meet youth needs. Normally at the CJEC, they attend group workshops on different themes that lead to work on personal qualities, such as self-esteem. The confinement has been around for several weeks and many young people have expressed the desire to maintain activities, even virtually to preserve group dynamics and face the confinement together. Once a week, support workers organize an activity where about half a dozen faithful young adults entertain each other in the company of their support worker. Through these sessions, Johanie explains, the goal is to create a relaxing atmosphere and dissipate the dark cloud hovering over our heads due to confinement. Werewolf, escape games and videos, all great ideas for having fun! It’s also important to note that setting up activities requires planning. No one should be excluded, and that’s why support workers need a snapshot of everyone’s preferences and interests. Among many others, artists! A Facebook group was created specifically for them. It’s a place where young artists are invited to express their emotions through dance, singing and writing and sharing their talents. Support workers work in the best interests of young people and find all kinds of opportunities to keep them interested.
Support at a Time of Crisis, a Success Factor
Although this extraordinary situation has brought its share of stress and worry, it has also allowed many ambitious young people to remain hopeful and continue their personal and also professional projects. Several of them have asked for help and advice from their support workers so they can continue their job search or keep working during the crisis. It goes without saying that the employment counsellors’ support has solidified in a good way the trust and connection they have with the young people. “We take young people’s interests to heart; it’s more than just our job!”
Upcoming Projects at CJEC
CJEC is currently recruiting for the INTERFACE project’s second cohort. The project will provide work experience and explore different professional areas through paid community internships.
CJEC is also working on a blog. It’s a service that will be set up and last for a long time!
CJEC is a community-based organization whose mission is to support young adults between the ages of 16 and 35 in their efforts to attain personal and social autonomy, i.e., by helping them stay in school, in their journey toward employment or developing a business, volunteering or volunteer project.
An article by Amina Bousbia, Communications Advisor, SPHERE, in collaboration with Christie Salumu Mulimbi and Johanie Paquet, Employment Counsellors, Support Workers, CJEC, Amélie Ferland, SPHERE.