“They’ve forgotten how to be kids.”
It was an assessment made by Back2Back’s staff psychologist, Lili, as she and other staff members watched the children and teens reorient themselves recently to the community centers.
It has been almost a year since schools were shut down and all students in Cancun transitioned to virtual learning. “They have gone through so many changes in the last year,” shared Amy Kelly, Back2Back staff. “School is broadcasted on television sets, and over time, some teachers simply text school work and assignments to the students.” In addition, students were kept inside and saw their families carry the weight of a pandemic filled with disappointment and job loss.
After many meetings and strategic planning sessions, the centers in each community were reopened for modified programming in mid-January! Now, much is different at the centers when staff welcome children and families, all in the name of keeping everyone safe and healthy. Every person who comes through the gate has their temperature taken upon arrival and is given hand sanitizer. All staff, children, and parents wear masks while at the center, and they meet in smaller groups. In between groups, everything is disinfected.
“There are a lot of changes, but our mission has remained the same – to serve the families and provide space for connection, play, and growth,” shared Amy.
Staff spend two days a week in one community center and two days a week at the other, and the reaction at the entrances each day is the same: elation at being together again. The smaller numbers are allowing more individualized time with the moms and children. Parents are given the space to share what’s working and what isn’t, and what they’ve learned during this difficult time. Additionally, the children are given opportunity to play and laugh as children should.
One mom, who felt stress about providing food for her family with consistency, shared how much the despensas (monthly food and hygiene packs delivered by the staff through shutdowns) helped ease her mind and provide for her family. “My husband got injured at work and had to take time off; he was getting paid, but less than normal, and the despensas were a lifesaver,” she shared. In the midst of rejoicing for the help, though, she felt the Lord remind her to share open-handedly with her neighbors. “Because of this reminder from God, I gave out of the abundance given to me and eased another family’s burden, as I cared for my own.”
With the centers reopened, the moms gather in community again, share lessons they’ve learned, and lean on each other for spiritual and emotional accountability. They come together and watch their children reenergize through playing with their friends.
“Once we realized the kids had been missing play and time to laugh together, our focus became giving them space to take a break from worrying about school,” shared Amy. Some children arrive stressed or tired from their school day. During their time at the center, they play games, make crafts, and participate in obstacle courses and dodgeball tournaments!
After a year of nothing familiar, the gates are open again, and everyone is welcomed back to a place where it’s safe and fun. These families are reminded that being together is what makes a healthy community thrive.