27 April 2020
YMCA disability support leaps online
YMCA South Australia has had an overwhelming response to its Leap Online program aimed at providing a social outlet for people living with disability during the current period of isolation due to the COVID-19 emergency.
The program, delivered by Whyalla YMCA Program Coordinator David Agius, is nearing the end of its third week of operation with each of the 54 one-hour, six person weekly sessions fully booked.
The sessions are being run on the Zoom platform and Mr Agius said that the online engagement by clients and their families had created an important social support network for vulnerable community members forced into isolation.
“Often the main source of social interaction for Whyalla’s Leap participants is their regular sessions at the Whyalla Recreation Centre. As the Covid-19 National Response took shape, we concentrated on developing ideas to maintain connection with those already at risk of social isolation. The staged close-down of venues, events and activities removed their direct contact with others,” he said.
Leap Online was launched to establish and maintain regular engagement from participants’ lounge rooms, kitchen tables or back verandas. It was aimed at keeping relationships strong between people who were personally interacting with each other before the CV-19 pandemic measures were in place.
“Well over 100 individual, hour long catch-ups have occurred with singing, games, fitness, dancing and exercise keeping those important connections intact and active,” said Mr Agius.
These sessions have proved vital for many people and their families. They provide something to look forward to, to break up the hours of isolation and loneliness.
Leap Online is now also being engaged with by participants outside the Whyalla region, introducing people from across the state to each other through the sessions. This, in turn, is broadening networks and further enhancing social connections.
YMCA Konnections Plus, a social group for young adults with autism, has now joined the Leap Online platform, allowing this group to also maintain their friendships and connection.
YMCA Leap Manager, David Swaine, said that the extension of Leap Online to the wider community through Konnections Plus had provided a safe place for participants to talk about their current situation in an environment they know and trust.
“This had been an enormous benefit for these participants. Being online and managed out of Whyalla, it has also allowed for new people to join and introduce themselves in an extremely safe and secure manner,” he said.
“During this close-down these programs have provided new opportunities for so many to join in, meet, talk and interact with new people. As we come out of this time, we believe that those who have been a part of the program will emerge more connected and with improved social outcomes.”
My Swaine added that the YMCA was already looking into ways to bring groups together to meet and cement friendships personally once the close-down is over.
For more information about YMCA South Australia Leap inclusion programs visit https://www.sa.ymca.org.au/what-we-do/leap-inclusion-services.
For further information or to arrange a photo opportunity contact:
YMCA South Australia
P: (08) 8298 7422