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Students take on community outreach projects amidst COVID-19

Community services students from Kangan Institute’s Broadmeadows campus are embracing new ways to complete their practical studies and make a difference in the community within the new COVID-19 environment.

As part of their course, the students – who are based in Broadmeadows and beyond – are connecting with a vulnerable person in their local areas or social groups, and providing grass roots community support.

This includes providing elderly, widowers, single mothers, distressed teenagers, isolated people with mental health issues, and the homeless with food drop offs and simple social interactions.

The initiative forms part of a Certificate IV in Community Services (CHC42015) course assessment unit adapted by teachers to suit COVID-19 restrictions. The original assessment involved working with a community group.

Student Maria Gaggiano of Reservoir chose to provide a home-cooked meal for an elderly neighbour living alone as part of the project.

“I knew the isolation would be hard on him so I offered to cook him an Italian traditional meal – penne bolognese – and he loved it,” she said.

“I really enjoyed this assessment because I did something valuable, important and enjoyable. It was also hands-on. It wasn’t just text book learning; it was real life learning and it gave me an insight of what it’s like working with members of the community.”

Classmate Lochlan Wilson of Moonee Ponds chose a different approach – his project focused on supporting a friend during the period of isolation.

“I organised a night with him and other close friends to have dinner and a movie while on video chat, to feel some sort of normalcy again in doing an activity we all thoroughly enjoy,” he said.

“As this isolation period has everyone feeling a bit secluded and uneasy, this opportunity allowed us to forget about what was happening, just for a few hours, giving us a great mental reset.”

Lochlan said there have been many positives in adjusting to life and learning amidst COVID-19. “Adapting to a non-contact environment has definitely been somewhat of a struggle but I feel that it has also been beneficial in encouraging me to learn how to communicate effectively with others via video chat, phone calls and messenger,” he said.

“This approach to community services seems to be a viable and preferred option for a lot of people suffering from debilitating mental health illnesses and health problems. Learning this skill early is definitely essential.

“Throughout this time our teachers have kept us engaged, motivated and willing to learn, as well as constantly reassuring us that we have their full support during this difficult period of learning and for that I am extremely grateful.”

Teacher-in-charge Loz Visser said more than 20 students have participated in the project.

“The students have found this work truly rewarding and feel a sense of happiness and fulfilment to have given with a felt purpose to their local community,” he said.

“To see their neighbours and community be cared for during this challenging time is what the community sector is all about. This experience is essential for community services students at any level of academic excellence.”

Courses at Kangan Institute are currently delivered through flexible, adaptable delivery incorporating remote learning and practical assessments on campus where required.

“As the Victorian Government has recently highlighted, TAFE is a key part of the vocational education sector with a critical role to play in the post-pandemic world to build skills and ensure students become job-ready,” said Kangan Institute CEO Sally Curtain.

“As an essential service, Kangan Institute has continued to operate and teach during the pandemic, just in a different way. We are very appreciative of our dedicated educators and students who have responded and adapted so positively to the new teaching and learning environment.

“We have everyone’s health and safety at heart and take guidance from the Government as we reintroduce our students and staff to campus in a staggered, methodical way.

“This means theory being completed through virtual classrooms and practical assessments on campus in smaller numbers with strict social distancing measures and personal protective equipment as required.”

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