Keeping Kids Connected: A Youth’s Solution in the Era of COVID-19

This wasn’t the first time that I met Huzaifa, but the first time to have a real discussion. It was online on a platform, Discord, that I didn’t know existed.  After he patiently led me through the process of connecting, setting up audio and video, we were able to talk about his role in keeping The Dam, a youth drop-in centre, part of the daily routine of youth ages 13-19 during a crazy time.

Discord is a communication app well-known to gamers. Huzaifa, a grade 11 Mississauga student, recommended it to The Dam for its flexibility. He created The Dam’s online community with the oversight of The Dam staff. Now kids who would normally head to The Dam after school or during lunch can sign onto Discord to connect with friends, play games, watch videos, or speak confidentially with a staff member from The Dam.  

“Nothing is as good as being in The Dam in person,” says Huzaifa. Although not yet perfect, an online community, “really helps staying in touch.”

Huzaifa says his peers are keeping life relatively normal by, “doing random things at home,” such as reading, gaming and streaming. “I definitely feel [The Dam on Discord] is helping.”

He adds that the online initiative has another upside. His friend from the United States has joined conversations. Youth from anywhere who are unable to find local resources have a chance online to reach mentors and other young people.

I asked how we, as community groups, could help. A pause. He then said, “one thing – by spreading the word.”

“This is a grand idea,” he said.  “Seeing how this plays out is pretty cool – beneficial to many people.”

Youth who are looking for a positive social outlet online can register to join The Dam on Discord by contacting https://www.instagram.com/thedammdv. The Dam staff are vetting each person directly as they enter Discord. 

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A screenshot from our chat — Huzaifa, a youth intern at The Dam, and I met on the platform Discord to discuss online youth outreach.

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