YSOP Connex: Creating Intergenerational Virtual Connections
by Ed Doty
I want Friends in New York Yearly Meeting to know about a new intergenerational project YSOP (Youth Service Opportunities Project) has started. Many Friends from my meeting, Purchase, have participated, as have other senior citizens and young people from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
YSOP Connex is a program that connects senior citizens and youth in meaningful, conversations and service projects. Our highly skilled staff facilitators lead group conversations and projects between young people, residents of senior living communities and seniors in their homes.
Started in 1983 by American Friends Service Committee, YSOP has engaged over 80,000 youth serving over 6 million people in need. We have a wide network of schools and youth groups that have participated in YSOP Workcamps. In response to the pandemic, in October 2020 we started an intergenerational project connecting students and senior citizens over Zoom. This past school year, trained YSOP Facilitators have led 150 students and 120 seniors in 90 hours of virtual conversations. The program benefits both students and seniors. Students talk to people with a range of experience and interests beyond their immediate communities. Seniors provide much needed perspective, insight, sense of comfort and calm to youth participants trying to navigate so many new and unknown situations.
YSOP Connex virtual programs involve 4 seniors, 5 students and a YSOP facilitator. The group meets once a week for one hour. The program runs for 3 weeks. The in-person service projects involve groups of seniors and students participating in a variety of activities serving people in need.
Here is what some participants have said about YSOP Connex:
“It was really nice talking to people outside of school and my family. It was really great hearing their side of the story about what they have been going through during this difficult time. I was there, and others, to talk to them, and keep them company. It was really so nice to just get to have a conversation with someone I didn't know, and get to hear their story, and along the way also become friends.” — high school Connex participant, 2020
“During the past many months, we have been living very quietly 'safer at home.' This YSOP program gave us a chance to communicate with some thoughtful students and talk with them about their experiences going to school online and their living through this very disruptive time of COVID 19. Our Zoom calls were rewarding, full of vitality and we appreciated the students’ leadership and our many positive interactions!” — adult Connex participant, 2020
"YSOP provides a unique opportunity for seniors and teens to build a community based on trust, openness, curiosity, and empathy. During the past two years, we often found ourselves becoming more inwardly focused. YSOP is very much outwardly-focused and fosters a cross-generational dialogue that is both meaningful and enriching." — Connex senior citizen participant
"The Connex program was truly one of the highlights of my weeks from last year. Interacting and talking with the seniors was always fun and educational. I would love to be a part of any group that is held. Thank you!" — Connex student participant
To learn more, visit www.ysop.org/connex
Please reach out to me at [email protected] if you are interested in participating in a Connex program!