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New 4-H activity kit helps support youth mental health

A new mental health activity kit called Unbox Your Mind is the latest project of 4-H Canada. The kit will provide tools, support, and guidance for 4-H leaders, families, and youth members, as well as non-4-H families, groups, and youth, to foster better mental health wellness.

“The Unbox Your Mind kit is part of a suite of initiatives that we did this year to provide youth at home with activities that they could do, either with their clubs socially distanced, or independently over zoom or even just with their families,” said 4-H Canada spokesperson Elizabeth Jarvis.

The Unbox Your Mind kit is different from the traditional support provided by 4-H Canada in that it is open to youth and families that aren’t a part of 4-H, a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization governed by a volunteer board of directors whose mission is ‘To empower youth to be responsible, caring and contributing leaders that effect positive change in the world around them.’

“For the first time, we made our resources available to the general public, just because we know that youth and families are looking for activities and things to brighten their day in this COVID world,” said Jarvis.

With most activities and ways to connect now going online, the Unbox Your Mind kit serves as a reliable offline resource for families and youth living in rural areas with a lack of high-speed internet.

“Rural Internet – there’s a lot of problems with it,” said John Drummond, Waterloo 4-H Club leader. “When we offer our virtual experiences, it’s always a challenge when your internet connection is going on and off. I think these kits are a way to try to give kids and families a 4-H experience even if they are not having an in-person or virtual experience.”

With more than 80 per cent of 4-H’s users coming from an on-farm or rural community, the organization is acutely aware of challenges facing rural internet connectivity.

“[Rural internet connectivity issues] is one of the reasons why we decided that this was such an important thing to have. Not only something to get youth, continuing that hands-on learning experience with 4-H, but also building skills and having fun and getting outside,” said Jarvis. “We are aware that connectivity is an issue and youth are sick of being in front of screens, so certainly it was a way to reach them.”

While it is a good cause, 4-H Canada is not focused simply on youth’s mental health. The organization also has activities like their “My Plate and the Planet” program which touch on food and its relation to healthy living.

“There’s so many great opportunities to get outside and get gardening and do that as a family,” said Jarvis. “But [My Plate and the Planet] also talks about food security and that idea of sitting down and having a meal with your family and how much of an impact that can have on our health.”

See the website for more information on the Unbox Your Mind kit and other 4-H programs.

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