Newsletter: May 2020

Zoom meeting with students

by Marybeth Leis and Jeff Druery

I really benefit from Open Circle during this uncertain time

Students were suddenly uprooted from their routines at a very stressful time of term when the pandemic shut down all in-person McMaster classes and gatherings. Many of them feel isolated and disconnected from the supports in their lives while dealing with the collective uncertainty and fear related to Covid-19. In response to this increased need, we quickly transitioned all our student support to online video conferencing. Thankfully, none of our weekly Reflection Circles, individual coaching and spiritual companioning, student leadership training, extra-curricular courses, or events had to be cancelled! McMaster staff expressed their surprise and gratitude for how quickly we pivoted to continue caring for students in this difficult time. Since then, we’ve worked to set up virtual service placements for our volunteer groups during this time of great need and physical distancing. For the spring and summer term, our weekly groups of students are connecting with isolated seniorstutoring high school students, offering English as a second language support, creating at-home summer camps for kids at risk, and relating with isolated adults with disabilities.

Thank you for going to such lengths to provide us with support!

Young people are dealing with loneliness, disorientation, difficulty finding a daily routine after moving home, and are wondering when they will again be able to dream the dream of their life. They repeatedly express gratitude for Student Open Circles, helping them live with intention and give attention to their spiritual growth during this crisis. Students are deeply engaged in our online gatherings, individual support, and social media groups, including those who had to go back to their home country. A new offering of our Becoming Yourself series began this past week, and it alone has more than 50 participants. As one student reflected: “I know you have been occupied with transitioning Open Circles online and I just wanted to say I feel like I am still getting the exact same benefits out of it & in some ways more! Connecting by video means there is less room for social cues for who will speak next, so I find myself listening more than speaking which is also something I want to work on more.” Through this adversity, students in Open Circle are connecting deeply with each other, and we’ve set up accountability partners and other new structures to help them, as well as recent alumni, strengthen their bonds and support each other.

I feel a sense of solidarity and community, a reminder that even in isolation we are not alone
Thanks so much for continuing with all of this in such a confusing time, our meetings have really been an important space for me