The Covid-19 pandemic has made many things difficult, especially communication. In these difficult times, we do not have all of the same opportunities to connect with our relatives, friends and community. Some can connect through internet-based services like email, video-calling or video conferencing. But, for many in our community, internet access is either not available or is too costly. Some people don’t have the skills or equipment to use these forms of communication technology. As a result, many are left feeling lonely and isolated during this time, especially with the closure of recreational centres and clubs.

Connections Adult Learning, with two grants and their base funding, are trying to help.

One grant is from Older Adult Centres’ Association of Ontario (OACAO), for a concept called Seniors’ Centres Without Walls (SCWW). This funding will help support a telephone conferencing platform with toll-free call-in for up to 100 participants plus the mailing costs of any necessary pre-call materials.  This interactive, free program will help seniors socialize from the comfort and safety of their own home. The multi-person phone conversations (or conference calls), require no special equipment – just your average phone.  There will be a variety of different activities, stories, games and workshops.

Connections also plans to teach introductory courses for computers, tablets and smart phones. “We feel that there are some out there that may wish to explore things like Internet, email and video calls, but either don’t have the equipment, internet or knowledge. This can give them a chance to learn and gain c0onfidence, with no expenditure but their time and curiosity,” says Joyce Bigelow, Connections Executive Director. “We will be able to provide them with the necessary equipment, if they do not already have it.” This has been made possible through another grant, from Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, administered by Community Foundation for Kingston & Area. It will allow Connections to purchase tablets, iPads, laptops and internet (cellular) data equipment and plans. These will be available for loan, if a participant needs them.

Connections has many other programs planned to help people connect during the pandemic. Some examples are Digital Scrapbooking, Soapstone Carving, Pallet Projects, No-till Gardening, Quickbooks, Indigenous Crafts and Genealogy.

Funding for the instructors will be covered through Connections’ Literacy and Basic Skills funding an Employment Ontario program funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario Funding through the Canada-Ontario Job Fund Agreement.

“We really appreciate all the support we have received from these three funders. Without them we would not be able to provide all the free learning and sharing opportunities for adults in our community that we do. They have really helped us provide ways to fight the effects of this pandemic’s isolation effects.” Says Bigelow.

For information on Connections’ free learning programs, call 613-279-2499 or email info@ncalc.ca. You may find them on Facebook as “Connections Adult Learning” or visit their website at www.ConnectionsAdultLearning.ca  or www.ncalc.ca .