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From friendships to family

Lives in Moe

Further apart, but closer together, has been the unofficial motto of the Moe Multicultural Friendship Group this year.

Unable to continue with weekly face-to-face meetings due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group delved further into the online space in a bid to ensure the invaluable line of social connection remained open in a time of need.

A private Facebook group was created for participants of Latrobe Community Health Service’s three multicultural friendship groups based at Moe, Warragul and Wonthaggi, and at last count it contained more than 130 members.

The page serves as a safe space where members can keep in touch with one another and enjoy activities, make new friends and share relevant advice and general support.

The Moe group also uses the platform to meet through video chat every Friday.

One participant, Radha, who has not had access to transport, said the page had been a great source of connection. 

“It’s been really amazing,” Radha said.

“It’s giving me a little bit of time to myself to communicate with other people. Otherwise I’m always busy with my kids in home, not doing anything, going crazy.

“In this group we are not restricted to a particular topic, we can discuss whatever we feel… so there’s something special in this group.”

Marina feels similarly and the group has also provided a break from 24-hour parenting, particularly during the stage three lockdown period.

“If I have time I always like to try to connect to everybody,” Marina said.

“I don’t want to get bored and I just want a little bit, maybe one or two hours from my little boy. I go [to the virtual catch ups] on a Friday sometimes with the group and it’s really good to chat to everybody and sometimes I use Facebook and they have some information on how to cook something and that’s really good too.”

The main driver of the page is LCHS Community Settlement Worker Debbie Carnduff, who belatedly embraced social media, knowing how important it would be for the region’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community.

“I am a convert now to Facebook when it’s not necessarily popular to be on Facebook,” Debbie said.

“I have been surprised at how well many have connected through our page. 

“I share information to keep safe during COVID, translated resources, how to make facemasks, home schooling information, what to plant in the garden and where to go.

“We have done joint craft activities, had cooking demonstrations by members, some guest speakers and just plain and simple social connection.”

Many of the group’s members were already familiar with the challenges of physical distancing, from having family and friends overseas.

However, not all members have access to, or are comfortable using, technology to communicate, so Debbie and the group often find themselves working together to ensure others are included in different ways.

Group regular Katherine has taken to making handcrafted greeting cards and other upcycling projects.

“I had supplies sitting there for years and years and years and then it was like ‘ok, you know I’ll start something’,” Katherine said.

“It’s always nice to open the letterbox and it’s not a bill.”

A handmade birthday card made by Moe Multicultural Group member Katherine

Some members of the group have been putting aside items for Katherine to use and the cards have been put to good use.

“Katherine has given me some cards so I have been sending little parcels out from time to time to some of those people that haven’t been able to join our groups,” Debbie said.

“In the first round of lockdown, when home schooling was introduced, I did little parcels for some of my parents. The parcels contained creative projects on things like making a weather station, how to make a paper aeroplane, mindfulness colouring pages and how to sketch a dinosaur or a fish. I even put in pea and sweetpea seeds to grow.”

Another participant, Wendy, has spent many hours helping retirees and CALD community members navigate technology in her roles at Latrobe Valley U3A and the Latrobe International Women’s Group, and wishes she could do even more to enable others to stay connected. 

“Trying to help with computers over the phone is really difficult, not being face to face or head to head with people,” Wendy said.

“I feel so helpless because I could help them if I was able to sit down with them.

“And I’m missing the hugs.”

However, the group can rest assured that if members of the Gippsland multicultural community need support, they have somewhere to turn, even if they can’t always make it.

“It’s a community to help us stay connected. For us to share our ideas and know each other,” participant Sueying said.

“I’m doing my online study at the moment so I haven’t been keeping in touch with people as often as I should but I’m waiting for the semester break and [by then] I’m hoping to be able to see people face to face.”

Even as restrictions ease, the group page is likely to remain relevant for a while yet and could even serve to strengthen the connections between face-to-face catch ups down the track.

“I think this is going to be a strength of our moving forward to stay connected,” Debbie said.

The Moe Multicultural Friendship Group is run by Latrobe Community Health Service. For more information, contact Community Settlement Worker Debbie Carnduff at Debra.Carnduff@lchs.com.au

From friendships to family

Lives in Moe

Further apart, but closer together, has been the unofficial motto of the Moe Multicultural Friendship Group this year.

Unable to continue with weekly face-to-face meetings due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group delved further into the online space in a bid to ensure the invaluable line of social connection remained open in a time of need.

A private Facebook group was created for participants of Latrobe Community Health Service’s three multicultural friendship groups based at Moe, Warragul and Wonthaggi, and at last count it contained more than 130 members.

The page serves as a safe space where members can keep in touch with one another and enjoy activities, make new friends and share relevant advice and general support.

The Moe group also uses the platform to meet through video chat every Friday.

One participant, Radha, who has not had access to transport, said the page had been a great source of connection. 

“It’s been really amazing,” Radha said.

“It’s giving me a little bit of time to myself to communicate with other people. Otherwise I’m always busy with my kids in home, not doing anything, going crazy.

“In this group we are not restricted to a particular topic, we can discuss whatever we feel… so there’s something special in this group.”

Marina feels similarly and the group has also provided a break from 24-hour parenting, particularly during the stage three lockdown period.

“If I have time I always like to try to connect to everybody,” Marina said.

“I don’t want to get bored and I just want a little bit, maybe one or two hours from my little boy. I go [to the virtual catch ups] on a Friday sometimes with the group and it’s really good to chat to everybody and sometimes I use Facebook and they have some information on how to cook something and that’s really good too.”

The main driver of the page is LCHS Community Settlement Worker Debbie Carnduff, who belatedly embraced social media, knowing how important it would be for the region’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community.

“I am a convert now to Facebook when it’s not necessarily popular to be on Facebook,” Debbie said.

“I have been surprised at how well many have connected through our page. 

“I share information to keep safe during COVID, translated resources, how to make facemasks, home schooling information, what to plant in the garden and where to go.

“We have done joint craft activities, had cooking demonstrations by members, some guest speakers and just plain and simple social connection.”

Many of the group’s members were already familiar with the challenges of physical distancing, from having family and friends overseas.

However, not all members have access to, or are comfortable using, technology to communicate, so Debbie and the group often find themselves working together to ensure others are included in different ways.

Group regular Katherine has taken to making handcrafted greeting cards and other upcycling projects.

“I had supplies sitting there for years and years and years and then it was like ‘ok, you know I’ll start something’,” Katherine said.

“It’s always nice to open the letterbox and it’s not a bill.”

A handmade birthday card made by Moe Multicultural Group member Katherine

Some members of the group have been putting aside items for Katherine to use and the cards have been put to good use.

“Katherine has given me some cards so I have been sending little parcels out from time to time to some of those people that haven’t been able to join our groups,” Debbie said.

“In the first round of lockdown, when home schooling was introduced, I did little parcels for some of my parents. The parcels contained creative projects on things like making a weather station, how to make a paper aeroplane, mindfulness colouring pages and how to sketch a dinosaur or a fish. I even put in pea and sweetpea seeds to grow.”

Another participant, Wendy, has spent many hours helping retirees and CALD community members navigate technology in her roles at Latrobe Valley U3A and the Latrobe International Women’s Group, and wishes she could do even more to enable others to stay connected. 

“Trying to help with computers over the phone is really difficult, not being face to face or head to head with people,” Wendy said.

“I feel so helpless because I could help them if I was able to sit down with them.

“And I’m missing the hugs.”

However, the group can rest assured that if members of the Gippsland multicultural community need support, they have somewhere to turn, even if they can’t always make it.

“It’s a community to help us stay connected. For us to share our ideas and know each other,” participant Sueying said.

“I’m doing my online study at the moment so I haven’t been keeping in touch with people as often as I should but I’m waiting for the semester break and [by then] I’m hoping to be able to see people face to face.”

Even as restrictions ease, the group page is likely to remain relevant for a while yet and could even serve to strengthen the connections between face-to-face catch ups down the track.

“I think this is going to be a strength of our moving forward to stay connected,” Debbie said.

The Moe Multicultural Friendship Group is run by Latrobe Community Health Service. For more information, contact Community Settlement Worker Debbie Carnduff at Debra.Carnduff@lchs.com.au

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