In the middle of a pandemic, 13-year-old Jade stood in her kitchen with her phone in her hand, listening intently to the instructions coming from the other end of her Zoom call.
It was her first time attempting to make Rice Krispies Treats.
“Cooking is one of my favorite things to do, but I still have a lot of things to work on,” she explained as she mixed a small cup of marshmallow with the cereal she’d already poured into a bowl.
For Jade and countless other kids across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a sudden absence of social time with friends who they’d typically see at school. For Jade, the pressures of the pandemic can often be incredible loneliness, even with her grandma, grandpa and mom living at home with her.
“Two months ago, we were all hanging out. Now we’re all home. It’s really hard, but I’m getting used to it now,” she said.
Before the pandemic began, Jade was enrolled with the group Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Massachusetts. In an effort to make sure Jade is handling the pressures of the pandemic, Jade’s “Big Sister” and mentor Angela Potts has been scheduling weekly Zoom calls.
From the very start of quarantine, the pair decided baking would be the way they would bond from afar.
“It keeps your mind off of everything negative that’s going on in the world,” Angela said from her kitchen as she added chocolate chips to the Rice Krispies Treats that she was making.
Each week, the pair chooses a recipe, then they schedule a time to cook together. Even though they aren’t meeting in person, it still gives Angela a chance to check on her mentee.
“If she needs someone to talk to, to reach out to, I’m here for her and I hope she knows that,” Angela added.
Across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters has turned to virtual meetups to make sure vulnerable kids and teens are still getting one-on-one time with mentors.
“Now is the time that kids need that extra support. The world is just in chaos, so we’re letting them know they aren’t alone,” said Courtney Evans who works for the nonprofit.
Until Big Brother and Big Sisters can meet with their mentees again safely in person, the organization says virtual meetups are making sure kids don’t slip through the cracks.