Below is the fifth entry in our blog series on how Triangle programs are modifying programs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When your organization’s work mainly consists of hands-on participation in life-like role playing scenarios, moving your programming online is a daunting challenge. This was the scenario facing IMPACT Boston, an affiliate of Triangle, as our communities began to shelter at home in March. In real time, they needed to assess which courses and materials would translate to online learning while also coordinating with community and school partners to ensure that progress with ongoing projects maintained positive momentum. IMPACT:Ability, an abuse prevention program for students with disabilities, has used Zoom to demonstrate and review physical skills and have helped guide students to practice in their own homes. This program reaches thousands of students every year and provide young people with the tools to stand up to bullying and safely avoid or escape abusive situations.
For other IMPACT classes and offerings, staff members adapted some in-person workshops to an online format and have offered those to the public for free. These cover a variety of important topics, including assertiveness and boundary setting, challenging conversations, de-escalation, and negotiating. Many of the free classes have been tailored to give specific attention to sheltering in place and the tremendous amount of additional stress facing individuals. They have also adapted some of the adrenaline management techniques that are normally taught in-person to an hour-long freestanding class.
The new format has allowed the team to reach a much broader audience. In the words of IMPACT Boston Program Coordinator, Ben Comeau, “I have taught people all over the country and world from my kitchen, which is such a weird and cool accomplishment.” They have worked hard to bring the typical atmosphere of an in-person IMPACT class to the virtual workshops by cultivating a trauma-informed space within the constraints of Zoom. They carefully screen their class participants to avoid inappropriate content, “Zoom bombing,” or unwanted guests. They’ve also created discrete registration processes for safe-space classes, similar to how they would in a standard class, where individuals are required to directly email the instructor to receive the login information. The program provides total transparency about the confidentiality limitations, including informing students where class information has been posted publicly online. All classes provide students with time and space to share their experiences while contributing to an engaged learning model together, even when everyone cannot be in the same physical space.
The need for IMPACT to continue offering classes is clear. The current shift in society does not mean that safety skills are not needed; on the contrary, added stressors are creating new and more difficult situations for people to navigate. For survivors who were already experiencing abuse, the current situation is even more fraught as they are sheltering in place with an abusive partner. To address this issue, IMPACT created the Shelter in Safety campaign to provide a space for sharing stories and valuable resources. It is incredibly important that the team continues to show up for the community in any way possible in order to be a resource during this stressful time.
For more information on upcoming IMPACT Zoom classes: IMPACT Boston generally decides on the following week’s class offerings about mid-week, then posts the class offerings on their website (impactboston.org) and on their social media (Facebook: IMPACT Boston, Instagram: @impactboston, Twitter: @IMPACT_Boston).