Didcot TRAIN Youth Project

Dinner & Debate - switching things up over lockdown!

Our Children in Need funded Dinner and Debate (D&D) sessions pre-lockdown were face to face run sessions in which young people would come to talk to us about relevant topics to them, whilst eating food kindly provided by Greggs. Lockdown has brought many challenges for everyone in many different ways and we have seen some of these through our work. Changing all our provision to virtual has been challenging, especially for more structured sessions like D&D. 

We have been trialling different platforms to run the session since, to see which the young people engage in best. Initially we tried using Zoom video calls to make them as similar to face to face sessions as possible, and then moved to Instagram. However engagement was not as successful as we felt it had the potential to be, young people having technical issues downloading Zoom, different things going on, from schoolwork to the session coinciding with their dinnertime or finding it difficult to focus in video call based sessions.

The past few weeks have seen me try out Google Forms to create virtual worksheets, just like worksheets we would use in face to face sessions. As well as putting in quizzes and questions about the subject of focus, I also input useful information so that not only can they be completed alongside video call sessions but also alone. Since using these, I have had solid engagement every week and an increase from the initial Instagram and Zoom video call trials.

The worksheets offer a lot of freedom and flexibility, whilst still the ability to learn about relevant topics. Young people don’t have to socialise with others or come onto a video call, which for some can be a scary prospect - being able to complete them alone, with someone at home, a friend or a youth worker via message or video call. They are also free to complete them whenever suits them and easily do so straight from their phones. 

The biggest thing I’ve learnt while doing youth work online is that we cannot expect young people to come to us during these uncertain times. Before lockdown we would go to young people during Detached and Outreach sessions, following on from which young people would come along to our in-house sessions. There are many reasons why young people may not be as inclined to engage during lockdown, from lack of routine and heightened mental health issues to wanting to spend more time with family or simply not feeling up to socialising. 

As we are passionate to ensure we shape our delivery to meet young people’s needs, adapting based on what works best for them, I hope to become more creative in using Google Forms for virtual worksheets alongside continuing to try out other platforms, supporting us in reaching out to more young people in the future.

Written by: Charlotte Peters