Virtual Match Introductions – FAQ’s
What is a Virtual Match Introduction?
A Virtual Match Introduction (VMI) is a temporary adaptation to our traditional one-to-one community-based mentoring program that allows Bigs and Littles to begin their match relationship through online communication rather than in-person meetings.
This adaptation to our regular process enables potential volunteers and families to participate in mentoring relationships through electronic means, such as video conferencing, phone communications, and sharing online activities.
VMIs are not a new model or program for BBBS. They are not intended to continue as ‘online matches’ when in-person meeting restrictions are lifted. VMIs are a new way of allowing Bigs and Littles to start getting to know each other and forming a relationship with a plan to continue their mentoring relationship in person once restrictions are lifted.
What sorts of things can Bigs and Littles do when they can’t meet in person?
VMIs have many options for spending time together. In addition to FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, here are a few fun and free/low-cost ways Bigs and Littles can connect while practicing social distancing:
- Use an online platform like Netflix Party to synchronize video playback and chat while sharing favorite shows and movies with each other.
- Play board games remotely through sites like Tabletopia or Board Game Arena.
- Download online game apps to play together, like Heads Up or Scrabble.
- Take an online dance class together.
- Talk or text over the phone.
- Take advantage of the digital branch of the Austin Public Library to start a virtual “book club” or “story time” together. Books can be read in a web browser, downloaded to a mobile device, or streamed online, all for free!
- Play online video games together.
- Write letters back and forth to each other.
- Share digital music playlists with one another or make a unique playlist together.
What sort of support will matches get from BBBS?
Throughout the entire mentoring relationship, a Match Support Specialist from BBBS will remain in regular contact via phone or email. They are there to answer questions, provide assistance, offer ideas for activities, give feedback, help matches handle difficult situations and offer ongoing support in any way they can. For VMIs specifically, they will also help establish guidelines around electronic interactions between match participants, parental monitoring of interactions and provide activities for virtual connection to help matches get to know each other.
Is it possible to build a strong relationship without meeting in person?
Even though our existing matches are currently unable to meet in person, they are continuing to connect, grow and support each other in new and creative ways online, over the phone and through the mail. In addition, our staff is providing ideas, resources and activities to encourage consistent and engaging interaction. Because of the success we’ve seen in these situations, we are confident that we can facilitate, support and guide new VMI participants who are eager to engage with each other.
How will our VMIs transition to becoming traditional community matches?
Matches that begin as VMIs are required to have only electronic contact for at least 3 months before they are eligible to transition to a traditional community-based match. At this point, if social distancing requirements allow, BBBS staff will host an in-person meeting between all match participants to help Bigs and Littles progress from virtual meetings to in-person outings in the community.
For more information on enrolling a child, go to https://www.bigmentoring.org/get-a-big or call 512-442-4646.