As you know, I really enjoy featuring blog content from students. Today, I have a post from Lo Kellen Leonata, a Masters of Social Work student who shares her experiences of the Community Connections program at Baptistcare, SA. Spoiler, the program is available to students!
Hi, My name is Kellen and I am a final year Social Work student.
My LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/kellenleonata
One of my final year course requirements is to complete a placement, and I have been delightedly matched with Baptistcare SA by the university, a not-for-profit organisation that serves to help vulnerable South Australians. My time at placement so far has allowed me to work closely alongside the Community Connections team (which I will talk about in this post), however I have listed some of the other services offered by Baptistcare that are also accessible for all students.
Some of the services that Baptistcare SA provides include:
- WestCare Centre provides free breakfast, tea/coffee in the morning (9-10:30am, Monday to Friday) and very affordable lunches (11:30-13:00, Monday to Friday).
- Emergency Relief parcels of basic pantry and household items—including a valuable $45 food voucher that can be spent at the Community Food Hub.
- A Community Food Hub that offers basic pantry and other essential items for a much cheaper price than at the regular shops (located at 216 Wright Street, Adelaide). Students and concession card holders are welcome to shop here without presenting the food voucher. Free bread, fruit, and vegetables can also be picked up with any purchases.
- The Community Connections Program.
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on a lot of people and their health and wellbeing. SA Health have acknowledged the potential impacts include a change in daily routine, increased feelings of worry, anxiety, stress, hopelessness, or feeling more lonely and disconnected, any of which could contribute negatively to one’s mental health. Community Connections aims to bridge that hurdle for anyone who has felt isolation more intensely during this ordeal, especially international students who are likely to be separated oceans away from their families.
Community Connections is a new program initiated by the Department of Human Services aiming to support socially isolated South Australians to increase their independence in the home and to build stronger social and community connections. In doing so, it is hoped that participants can achieve better health and quality of life.
We will work with you to set some goals, map out your interests and explore the area for any local group or community activities that could spark your spirits! Once you are connected with a case manager, you will receive practical support to engage in community activities or events that you would not have had the courage to do otherwise. This process is aimed to also prompt lasting friendships or social connection that hopefully minimises the severity of loneliness felt largely from COVID-19 or otherwise. The program can provide direct support for up to 12 weeks, but more importantly we focus on helping participants develop a capacity-building mindset that continues to push them towards a more independent and sustainable life following the program.
I have witnessed first-hand the successes our case managers have had with participants. As an example, with the initial support of one of case managers, one participant managed to engage with her local tennis club and made lasting connections that built her social skills and confidence (along with her tennis skills!).
I think one of the strengths of the program is its collaborative approach throughout the whole process. This means that case managers would be working with you (as opposed to working for you) in building that capacity for social engagement, however that may look like (and it’s absolutely okay for it to look different from one participant to another!). This is one of the advantages of the program, it allows participant to modify what kind of outcomes they want to achieve out of it according to their social and interpersonal needs.
To be eligible for the program, one must be aged 18–64 (or 18–49 if you identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander), and not eligible for NDIS or My Aged Care. Priority will be given to Aboriginal people, unpaid careers, people who are financially disadvantaged, people who speak languages other than English at home, and people who live in disadvantaged communities. Important to note: International students are eligible for the program.
How to access the program
Our case managers are located all around Adelaide, so don’t fret if you don’t live near any of the Flinders University campuses. There are several partners across Adelaide who can assist you to find a suitable community or activity for your needs, and initial contact doesn’t have to begin at Baptistcare either! If you are interested in the program, students are able to self-refer on the Baptistcare website (link) or download and complete the referral form here. Contact numbers for the program can be found on the program brochure below. We look forward to connecting with you!
Also, more information about the program can be found at the DHS website – dhs.sa.gov.au/community-connections