When social distancing restrictions were introduced due to COVID-19, McCusker Centre for Citizenship intern William Conti was still able to continue his ConnectGroups internship working safely from home.
ConnectGroups chief executive Antonella Segre helped design a new project that Mr Conti, who is studying a Law and Society at the University of WA, could successfully complete.
The 20-year-old Lesmurdie resident is now developing online resources (such as videos and information sheets) that will support the Booragoon-based organisation’s support groups to transition from face-to-face to online groups.
“As a team, we quickly established what restrictions I face being at home and recognised the new primary concern of the organisation’s partners,” he said.
Ms Segre explained that Mr Conti’s responsibilities varied from week-to-week.
“As we see things arise we then ask him to action it,” she said.
“For example, he is currently working on a free online counselling info sheet that will go on our website.”
In March, the McCusker Centre for Citizenship, together with its partner organisations, worked collaboratively to ensure all current Semester 1 interns could complete their internship safely from home.
More than 70 UWA students are expected to complete their 100-hour internships remotely next month, contributing over 7000 hours in service to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Segre said ConnectGroups worked swiftly to respond to the changing needs of its support group sector.
“It was essential for ConnectGroups to respond in a timely manner to ensure the sustainability of its sector by transitioning them to online communities,” she said.
“All of our services had to be reviewed – modified and adapted – which included all of our sector development activities, forums, intensive support and small grant programs.
“We had to suspend all of our volunteer programs and, where possible, redeploy them to a new volunteer befriending service for seniors. Within the space of five weeks, all staff commenced working remotely and a new suite of services were developed based on the response of surveys and one-on-one calls made to members.”
Ms Segre said that Mr Conti and fellow intern Alice Colvin had been “fantastic” in responding to the extra challenge of working from home.
“It has been amazing for the two interns to join us via Zoom in our weekly staff meetings,” she said.
“I believe they have and will continue to gain a true understanding of how a small not-for-profit responds to members and government needs during such an unprecedented crisis.”
Mr Conti said attending video meetings and exchanging regular calls and emails was the key to feeling connected and supported while completing his internship from home.
“These small acts of effective communication have ensured this internship experience is still educational and rewarding,” he said.
“Interning at a non-for-profit has provided me experience and opportunity where the classroom lacks.
“Learning how to adapt within a fast-paced environment and acknowledging the importance of being active within your community is not only useful in this context, but will translate into important life skills.”