Sept 12, 2023
Youth-in-care are often behind their peers when it comes to education, and recreational and cultural experiences. This can negatively impact their self-esteem and make them not want to try new things out of fear of rejection or failure, which only further limits their experience. Thanks to the support of the Halifax Youth Foundation, we have one more tool to help the young people in the HomeBridge Community broaden their experience in a manner that feels very safe and comfortable to them.
The foundation funded the purchase of virtual reality (VR) headsets for each of our programs and it has been a complete game changer for many of the youth. VR creates an entire digital environment, a 360-degree, immersive user experience that feels real. In a VR setting, the youth can interact with what they see as if they were really there. In addition to providing them with immersive learning experiences, other benefits of virtual reality as an education tool include the ability to inspire the youth’s creativity and spark their imaginations. And this can motivate them to explore new interests, both academically and recreationally. Without leaving the program youth can go on virtual field trips to places ranging from the Roman Colosseum in ancient times to outer space to cellular-level passageways inside the human body. These experiences are educational, but also fun and help to prepare them to go out in the real world and try new things too.
Since the VR headsets have been purchased, they have been used non-stop. They have become a fun research tool in our school program, an ice breaker for youth who arrive at our emergency placement and crisis stabilization center and a regular activity in the long-term programs. The system was used so much at Jubien House at first that the team created a sign-up sheet to ensure everyone had fair access. Young people are learning, exploring, having fun and connecting with friends online. This also encourages them to hang out at home with their fellow residents and the Youth Care Team that is there to support them through this challenging time in their lives. They are building positive relationships and feeling connected to their program while having fun. One of the young people summed it up best when he said it’s an escape for him. When he feels said he puts on the headset, goes somewhere else and it makes him happy.
The VR headsets have been an incredible addition to our programs and we cannot thank the Halifax Youth Foundation enough for making this possible.