In March I received the news that I would not be able to return to my college campus for the rest of the spring term. All of my belongings remain locked up in my dorm room and I still do not know when I will receive them! This year has definitely brought changes to my life that I never expected. I could not have guessed that I would spend the rest of 2020 taking online classes or that I still wouldn’t be able to go back to school in the fall. However, with all of these unexpected changes, Sweet Readers has continued to be a constant.
I started Sweet Readers in sixth grade when it was introduced to me at my school. I immediately fell in love with the program and now, seven years later, it is still a large part of my life. Once I graduated high school, I thought that my time with Sweet Readers was over. I was devastated that I wouldn’t be able to partake in the programs anymore. Quarantine turned this assumption upside down; I was delighted when I learned that during the spring and summer, Sweet Readers would be continuing online through Zoom, which meant that I could once again join the program as an administrator or facilitator. Despite varying locations, different time zones, and no physical connection, Sweet Readers programs have run successfully.
As the elderly are confined to their care centers with minimal visitation and activities, connecting with Sweet Readers has become an important part of both the students and the elders’ day. The adults’ faces light up when they get to see their student partners as it takes their mind off of their current limitations.
This summer we have established different pilots to practice the online programs and run through them using Zoom. Each pilot has focused on learning about the 1960s through stories or music. It has been wonderful to watch the students and the elders interact despite the circumstances they are faced with. One of our pilots pairs students from Toronto, Canada, with adults from Durham, New Hampshire.
The pairs can chat and get to know each other, allowing the students and the adults to feel a little less isolated each day. As they listen to music together, it almost feels like the troubles of the outside world are diminishing. While COVID-19 has certainly made life more difficult, connections can still be made—even across two different countries!