Cancelling events doesn’t just mean reducing crowds. For young people, it can also mean cutting them off from vital support networks. But “official party crashers” Red Frogs Australia, are working to ensure no one isolates alone.
Founded over 20 years ago by CEO Andy Gourley, Red Frogs typically attend 17 major schoolies events and a number of musical festivals around the country each year, offering walk home services, hydration stations and being the “designated sober person” many people need.
To lose face-to-face interaction has been tough for their teams but Andy says they’re still finding ways to help.
“We do events, but we’re not in the events business,” said Andy, “We’re in the people business, and the people are still there. So our teams have been great at taking what we’d normally do and putting it online [with virtual games nights] and so on.
“Our Red Frog Hotline has also gone live around Australia to be accessible to students, and particularly university students who live in residential colleges.
“There’s over 100,000 residential college beds, and there’s a lot of students who’ve had to stay there, and chosen to stay there. In that case, we’re connecting with them and we’ve got that hotline open for them so if they need to just call and have a chat, Froggies are there for them” he said.
While social distancing has hit young people pretty hard, Andy believes they’re uniquely placed to handle it well, and parents should be confident they can get through it.
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“Young people are very active and they’re out and about,” said Andy, “so the home isolation has been a big thing for them on the one hand, but on the other hand they’re used to living online…So they’re probably the most adaptable to the new systems as well.
“There can a lot of fear out there, and negativity from the media, but [young people] are adapting and connecting online very well.”
“We’re in the people business, and the people are still there. So our teams have been great at taking what we’d normally do and putting it online [with virtual games nights] and so on.”
In the change of routine, Andy also sees an opportunity for school leavers to learn skills that will set them up well for adult life.
“This is actually really good training for them if they’re planning to go to university,” said Andy, “because in university you don’t have the framework of a school around you, you’ve got to be self-motivated to show up…the framework and the rigidness is not there.
“These new routines can be very beneficial in putting a new skillset in you on how you learn and adapt. Even if you’re going into a trade…now’s a great time to smash through your theory before you’re busy doing all your [apprenticeship] jobs that the tradies give you.”
For those who are struggling, Andy reminds us to keep checking in on each other.
“There’s two options right now which is fight or flight,” Andy said. “You can retreat into your cave and isolate and it all gets a bit too much. But you’ve got to do the opposite of how you feel sometimes and make sure you keep reaching out.
“We really encourage people to reach out to your friends, reach out to your mates, don’t let them isolate — make connection with them in online ways.”
The Red Frogs Hotline is available 3pm-8pm on 1300 557 123. Find out more via redfrogs.com.au