The Department of Health suspended Social Support Groups in mid March to avoid the spread of COVID-19. As an organisation we now faced a fresh set of challenges; how to continue our services without physical interaction, reduce social isolation and manage the language, cultural and technological barriers our clients may face during these testing times.
Before the groups were suspended, we created printed resource packs in various languages for our clients which included fact sheets and important information in language. We also spoke with our clients about how they would like to continue if and when the groups are suspended. Most of our clients use a landline (phone), let alone even own a smartphone, therefore the obvious choices of video calls or online groups to stay connected suddenly seemed bleak.
Although we are employing technology in other services (Settlement) and even our own staff meetings; for most of our elderly and Dementia clients a friendly chat in their own language truly works wonders and lifts up their day.
Our Social Support Groups Coordinator Lucy, who speaks three languages herself started the call list off at 8:30 AM and finished at 5pm; Lucy explained that ‘I only managed to speak with a handful of clients that day as we had such interesting and in-depth conversations. At the end of the conversations, they were passing on messages of hope and encouragement, and couldn’t wait for our next chat’. Lucy is joined with three other colleagues who call our clients daily offering support, answering questions or just having a friendly chat in English, Greek, Polish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic and Spanish.
Additionally, Sydney MCS in collaboration with Oz Harvest is delivering cooked food packages once a week to those most in need.
Sydney MCS has several language specific support groups that meet as a way to empower members, forge friendships and enjoy food, activities, workshops and outings together.
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