2 months ago if you told me we would be in isolation and that for weeks we would only be allowed out of our homes for essential reasons, I would have laughed and said, no way, not here!
I did not expect or anticipate how much Covid-19 would impact the world we live in and how quickly this would change the world as we know it. This situation has highlighted and made me think about the things in life that we take for granted, from simple face to face interaction with our friends, family and colleagues, to being able to work and the freedom to do whatever we want, when we want to.
As the Online Communities Worker for NCNS, I am used to connecting with people online and via different forms of technology but even I have found it difficult to be alone all day long without the interaction with colleagues at work, community who come through our centres or being able to see friends and family.
Our staff are used to, and thrive, working hands on with the local community. They love the face to face interaction and human connection, so for many of our workers, this new way of working has been challenging and we have tried our hardest to adapt the best we can during this time.
This month, we celebrated Neighbourhood Centre’s Week (NCW), a week that celebrates the role that Neighbourhood Centres have in their community.
It was strange celebrating NCW this year, with all NCNS Neighbourhood Centre’s currently closed due to Covid-19. Our Neighbourhood centres are a point of contact for many community members, whether they are stopping in for a cuppa and a chat or come in for some assistance. With the closure of our centres and our regular groups on pause, many community members are feeling more alone and isolated. Without the face to face connection with friends, family and support systems, this time has been a lonely experience for many people.
Ironically this year’s Neighbourhood Centre’s Week theme is, ‘Loneliness, the solution is community.’ The NCW website states that 1 in 4 Australians are lonely. Loneliness can negatively affect our mental health, physical health and overall happiness, and this is even more emphasised at this time due to Covid-19. So at NCNS, we have made it a priority to try and combat loneliness and to connect with our communities in a new way.
Since the shutdown, we have moved our 3 Playgroups online, delivering them via Zoom. Aboriginal Early Childhood Worker, Amy, even hand delivered craft packs to her St Marys Aboriginal Supported Playgroup families in preparation for her Zoom playgroup, making sure the families from the playgroup had the materials to do the activities that she had planned.
NCNS Early Childhood – Team Leader, Carolyn and NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe have also moved their playgroups, Kooly Aboriginal Supported Playgroup and Braddock Playtime Playgroup online via Zoom.
We have created Facebook groups for St Marys & Kooly Playgroups to keep families connected to us and to each other. It has been wonderful to see the families share photos of what they are doing with their children to keep them entertained and giving us updates on how they are going. We have also been sharing lots of activities to try with their kids and any information that we think might be helpful.
We have definitely had some technical difficulties along the way but our staff have persevered and our wonderful families have been very understanding so we thank them for this!
NCNS Early Childhood Worker, Zoe has even put herself out there, recording videos reading children’s books, and we have been posting these videos on the NCNS Facebook page for the families who usually attend Paint The Town REaD. So far, families have loved seeing a familiar face and enjoy Zoe’s enthusiastic reading style.
Our Communities team have also been busy coming up with ways to connect and run their groups online. They have created a new Facebook page NCNS Communties to share information and their online, community activities.
Our incredible volunteer group, Collective Community have been meeting on Zoom, brainstorming ideas about what they could do to help vulnerable community members while enjoying the chance to catch up with their friends, even if it is just via video.
NCNS Community Worker, Justine created Boredom Busters for primary aged kids via Zoom providing interactive fun facts, ideas, homework help, activities and so they can connect with friends in a safe environment.
For their first zoom meeting the kids were excited to see themselves, share some stories and were amazed by the science experiment that we conducted called Dancing Rice. Click here for instructions.
The children also helped to come up with some great ideas for future meetings such as brain teasers, science, movement, craft, jokes, nature hunts, eye spy, and lots of catch ups and chats.
The Cranebrook Girls Talk Group was put together to provide young girls (7-12 years old) with the opportunity to connect with one another, create bonds through shared interest, and speak about important matters that they may be going through. NCNS Communities Worker, Nada has expressed that this group has made a huge impact on the girls who are a part of the group. Our Community Development team have also been lucky enough to have help from our wonderful work placement students, Bree and Alanna who have been a part of this group.
Alanna explained, “Every Wednesday Nada, Bree and I, work together in performing and undertaking activities that engage the girls, encouraging them to talk about their feelings and increase their self-esteem and well-being. Each activity is designed to help girls move through life and achieve set outcomes of life skills, safety and protection, mental and physical health and plenty more. Through the challenging times of COVID-19 it is so important for us to remain in contact with the girls to remove any isolation and loneliness that one might be feeling. We are striving to get back into face-to-face contact but for the meantime we are working towards connectedness and making great relationships and friendships with the girls in this group”
Bree, describes the group as, “a great opportunity for the girls, and us, to try and maintain some level of normality and have some much-needed social interaction. One of the fun activities we have done during Girls Group is a drawing game entitled ‘Draw A Monster’. The objective of this game is to add features to your monster depending upon a dice roll. This game encourages the development of problem-solving strategies through creative thought. Everyone’s drawings looked very impressive. There is always room for more to join and, if you have any girls aged between 7 and 12, we would love to see you there!”
The NCNS Youth team have been coming up with weekly challenges for young people and announcing winners of each challenge on the NCNS Youth Instagram page.
Pictured above: NCNS Youth Worker, Joe doing the Optical Illusion Challenge
They are now doing a virtual hangout, Wednesdays on Zoom giving young people the chance to catch up with their friends and NCNS youth workers, Sami & Joe. The youth team are now looking at doing Quizzes on Kahoot, to try and keep young people engaged while having some fun.
Our Closing the Gap & Functional Family Therapy – Child Welfare teams are continuing to work with vulnerable community members and families. These teams are really missing being able to see their clients face to face and are eager to get back into the office and out into the community, but for the meantime they are doing their best to deliver services via phone and video chat.
The whole NCNS team is really missing our community and we hope that you are all safe and well. We can’t wait to get back into the community and get back to doing what we do best.
With the future uncertain, we know this time has been challenging for everyone in the community and we want to encourage anyone who may be feeling lonely or who is having a hard time to reach out to us, as we are still here and we are still working, just differently.