Our After School Adventure Program Coordinator Dana “Burkey” shares about caring for kids during the Covid-19 crisis: When I was first approached and asked to talk about my time caring for kids at ASA over the last few months, I realized I hadn’t stopped to think about it much. What was my experience over the past 14 weeks of school closures that lead right into another summer of caring for kids? How could I help someone who was looking in from the outside understand just what that time was like? Well, as I considered the words to use and the moments to share I realized the best way to explain it all was simple. It was like a roller coaster.
Now I know you are all thinking about a roller coasters ups and downs and how so many moments of life can be described as such. But when I say the last 16 weeks of ASA was like a roller coaster I don’t mean it in the traditional sense of the comparison. To understand we have to start at the very beginning.
In late February and early March it was like we were standing in line, seeing as other countries and cities began boarding a coaster cart to head off into the unknown. And then, right when we were thinking about getting out of line and heading somewhere tropical to escape the ride all together, we were ushered forward and told to buckle up. It was about to be a crazy ride.
Despite knowing it was coming, hearing that we had no school for 6 weeks was a big pill to swallow. There was not much we could do about it though, since we were moving forward towards the coasters first hill. Then, we began the ascent. Up and up we went, scrambling to make plans and begin providing child care. Did we have enough staff? Too much staff? What about lunches? Is there any hand sanitizer out there? Will we run out of toilet paper next?
The first few weeks were hard. Staff and kids alike were unsure of so many things, but knew a sudden drop was likely coming. There was fear and anxiety written on faces, but as numbers around Washington and the world climbed so did the roller coaster. Then, just when we thought we were at the top, with week 6 in sight, we were given the update: no more school all year. It became that moment when you thought the coaster was going to suddenly descend, but instead you were still climbing. Higher and higher, making you now wonder if the ride would ever end.
But then, something magical seemed to happen. As we reached the midway point of school closures around weeks 7 and 8 we could look out and see the coaster ahead. Sure, there were parts that were hard to make out, areas we didn’t have a clear view of, and some of what we saw was even a bit daunting. Yet in all that, there were also answers. We could see the twists and turns that were summer, the loops that were our various phases, and also the end of the ride(much further in the distance than we first expected). We even had a bit of a map of the course as well, in the forms of our weekly learning menus used to keep kids engaged in class work even while away from school.
Then, before we knew it, we reached the highest point of the hill and began the sudden drop into the rest of the ride. And I won’t lie, as we raced from weeks 8 to 14 there were moments where the world felt upside down or where we wanted to throw our hands up and yell. Along with those moments though there was laughter, smiling, shouts of excitement and moments of pure joy. When we stopped to look around as we raced through the coaster we realized we had people on the ride with us who were there to help. The Bellingham School District was right beside us providing meals, school counselors, and para educators to assist our staff. Woods Coffee was also with us, giving our staff a well stocked coffee bar to help them get through all the hard days. We were all on the ride together, and as unexpected as some of the course was we were making it through.
So yeah, there were ups and downs, but for me it was that first hill that was the hardest. Planning a staff schedule and program day around the unknown. But, we did it, and now despite hard moments every now and then we get to continue on. Continue caring for families dealing with stress and uncertainty, care for kids struggling to find a sense of normal, and even care for our staff thanks to kind gifts from the community. We’re still going too, riding the coaster and trying to get glimpses of the track ahead, hoping the end will arrive before too many more moments leave us gasping and reeling. But, looking back at all we have made it through on this course, it’s easy to see two things.
First of all God was faithful in providing us space for kids to play, staff to serve families in need, and enough bleach and hand sanitizer to keep all the germs at bay. Second, we can take comfort in the fact that we made it through highs and lows that seemed impossible at first and are still moving forward. There may be high hills and big drops in the future, but the hope and confidence we gained in the ride we’ve taken so far keeps the fear from mounting too much. All of this may not be a ride we rush to get in line for a second time once it comes to a stop, but thanks to these last weeks and months things we face in the future will be a little more in perspective. A little easier to face. Afterall, how scary can cleaning a messy bathroom or preparing kids for a field trip be when we just got off the biggest roller coaster in the park.