Ali and Pat from Mernda Community House with a hand-made quilt.

MERNDA Community House is one of many neighbourhood houses having to introduce creative ways of keeping the community connected during COVID-19, according to co-ordinator Paras Christou.

With a jam-packed schedule initially planned for its term three, the community group had to cancel two of its planned face-to-face activities, including gardening and walking groups.

Ms Christou said the neighbourhood house had been ‘thinking on its feet’ to continue to support the community.

“At the beginning of COVID-19, a lot of the houses had transformed or found some way to offer their classes via Zoom, and I feel pretty confident saying we all use the application of online classes,” she said.

“It’s been really interesting from our perspective, because it’s suited some people, and certainly those people who are vulnerable and have to be careful to stay at home.

“But for some people the lack of being around other people has had an impact. Neighbourhood houses are a place for people to connect and feel supported by others.

“It’s been very difficult for some participants in our community because some of them don’t have the know-how with technology or they don’t have the right devices or technology or the data.”

Ms Christou said the community house originally planned a ‘low-risk’ term three program.

“In our term three we wanted to offer the programs that were lower risk – outdoor activities like the walking group and the gardening program,” she said.

“With the reinstated lockdown conditions we’ve had to cancel those programs all together and all our programs will be online.

“We plan to continue online and support our participants to join our online programs. We’re bringing in volunteer digital mentors through a national program, to help our seniors in the community use their devices.

“We just want people to know if they need help we can support them.”

Online activities people can participate in via Zoom will include: painting and drawing, and pilates on Tuesdays; Busy Hive Craft Group, art therapy and art room for kids on Wednesdays; English conversation class and ukulele for beginners on Thursdays; and art for kids on Fridays.

All fees and time slots are accessible on the Facebook page – most activities are free.
Ms Christou said the community house also planned to host an online multi-cultural celebration event in place of what was going to be a festival-like setup before COVID-19.

For more information, visit Mernda Community House Facebook page or call 0475 454 133 or 9401 6644.