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An important message from Eric Windeler, Founder & Executive Director
An important message from Eric Windeler, Founder & Executive Director

An important message from Eric Windeler, Founder & Executive Director

In the midst of a global pandemic, we're prioritizing safety, mental health, and hope.
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Our Response to COVID-19

April 29, 2020

By this point, your inbox is likely full of COVID-19 updates, and you’ve been hearing about it non-stop for weeks. Organizations everywhere are evaluating their role in containing the virus. We at Jack.org are no exception, especially given that the implications concerning mental health are significant. In the past weeks, a lot of us have faced, and will continue to face increased levels of anxiety. Isolation may have separated us from friends, family, therapists, medications, or other support systems. Our self-care routines may be disrupted. These are not small issues, and we are committed to ensuring our staff, young leaders, and communities are protected and educated as best as possible.

As a valued supporter of Jack.org, I wanted to ensure that you have a more specific understanding of how we are approaching the COVID-19 crisis. 

We made a very big decision back in early March to cancel our National Jack Summit, which was to take place from March 20-22. With over 300 people involved, and young people and speakers travelling from over 100 communities, all regions of Canada, and several international destinations, we felt that cancelling was the only responsible course of action for Jack.org to take. Since then, we have made some significant additional programmatic decisions, detailed below.

  • All Jack.org staff have been working from home since Mid-March. We are working remotely, but are still working regular business hours.
  • We have developed the content originally planned for National Jack Summit into an incredible Virtual Jack Summit Experience, scheduled for May 3-9, which is Mental Health Awareness Week.
  • Given school closures and to protect the safety and well-being of our speakers and Talks audiences, we will be temporarily suspending our in-person Jack Talks while helping organizers rebook for a later date. To fill this gap, we have filmed a professionally shot and edited Jack Talk and are offering it to Talks organizers that want to host a "Virtual Jack Talk".
  • We have been helping our Jack Chapters think creatively about how to support and educate their peers about self-care and positive mental health through social media campaigns and other initiatives that do not require social gatherings. Check out our Instagram for some great examples.
  • We are supporting our Local Summit organizers to postpone their March/April events or to create a digital experience for their delegates. We are excited to see the different solutions each of our organizing teams create!
  • Jack Ride (Saturday, May 23) is now fully virtual ride your way at home or safely outside. Check out our Ride website for more information and to register (Jack Ride sold out in January, but "virtually" there is no limit to participation!) We will deal with any changes as we get closer to the date, but our hope and expectation is that we will be in the clear by late May, and Jack Ride will be as remarkable as always. 
  • There is some good news, amongst all the difficulties we are collectively facing. In true Jack.org fashion, our team has doubled down on efforts to find new and creative ways (such as our Virtual Jack Summit mentioned above) for our young leaders to be provided with the educational content, community building, and leadership training that they were so eagerly awaiting, and frankly, deserve. We are rapidly developing further plans and will continue to keep our programs relevant to this “new normal”, so stay tuned. 

We also feel this is a time for the sector to come together. We are all in uncharted territory with COVID-19, and we’re seeing more collaboration than ever. Our friends at Kids Help Phone were looking for our help, and we supported them to encourage members of our network to become a volunteer Crisis Responder for their 24/7 texting support service: Crisis Text Line powered by Kids Help Phone. They have seen a huge surge in youth distress around COVID-19, and this is expected to continue to grow exponentially. We have also worked together with Kids Help Phone and School Mental Health Ontario to develop a Hub of “youth-facing” resources to provide support and provide reliable information during this time. Check it out here.

Times of great uncertainty and social isolation can be extremely hard for all of us and even harder for those who regularly struggle. I strongly encourage you to take some more time for self care and to look for new ways to manage any anxieties you may be feeling. Let’s also be sure to stay connected to each other in new ways. 

To that end, I encourage you to look out for those around you and check in on someone if you notice significant attitude or behavioural shifts. If you do see significant change and are worried, please head to Be There to learn how to start a conversation and support them through their struggles. We’ve listed some other tips for you and/or others in your life below. 

  • If you find that the non-stop news coverage is causing you significant stress, it’s important to find a balance and tune out to some degree.
  • Avoid speculation and look up reliable sources for updates like Public Health Canada and WHO.
  • When you find reliable information or practices that may help others, share it! It may seriously help others who are connected to you.
  • Embrace best health practices (no handshakes, washing hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and stay home if you’re not feeling well, etc.).
  • If you take medication, make sure you have enough at home to last you at least two weeks.
  • If you see a therapist regularly, consider asking them if they would be open to online or phone sessions if you can’t make it in person.
  • If you're feeling isolated, create a check-in plan with family and friends. Find ways to cultivate human contact, even remotely (phone, FaceTime, email, social media, etc.).
  • Consider what’s usually in your daily routine for managing stress and anxiety and try to create new ones for yourself. Some of your usual tools may be disrupted (e.g. gyms may be temporarily closed). What can you do to adapt your toolkit? What other options do you have to cope or find a release?
  • Try to remain positive, this is a very difficult time, but Canada is considered low risk and life will go back to normal.
  • Kids Help Phone is there for youth anywhere in Canada. Text, Online Chat, and 24/7 Phone Support for Youth. Confidential and Free. 24-Hours a day. 1-800-668-6868.
  • As always, if you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or visit your local emergency room immediately.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support. If you have any questions at all, please get in touch with us at hello@jack.org, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

With love,

Eric Windeler
Founder & Executive Director, Jack.org