Share

Who knew we would love to meet virtually — and that it would be so easy

8 May, 2020

Precautions against spreading COVID-19 have had an unexpected upside for AQA's regional and community networks: we discovered we liked meeting online. So we've extended the opportunity to everyone in Melbourne.

You don't have to be an Einstein to work out that when you're starved for real human contact, you get an appetite for the virtual kind.

We're also starting a Melbourne Spinal Support Network, for people living in urban and suburban Melbourne.

It is very easy to set yourself up with Zoom, to take part in a meeting.

The coronavirus lockdown has made life interesting for the AQA regional and community networks - and not in the way that we thought it would.

We set up the networks to bring people together - people who we thought might help each other out, and have some fun, through sharing experience.

 There is a community network for professionals and other people who are in paid employment or hoping to beAnother just for women. And networks in regional centres such as Geelong, Shepparton, Ballarat, and Bendigo.

Sometimes members of each network meet just for lunch and a chin-wag. At other times they swarm an indoor or outdoor activity, and test ways to participate.

We've been sailing, bowling, and mini-golfing. We've shot arrows at targets a long way away. We've strapped on headsets and strolled among dinosaurs.

 And so I wasn't sure how people would respond when we announced that we would set up video meetings instead, so that we could accommodate social distancing.

Powerful appetite

The response has surprised us. Maybe it shouldn't have. You don't have to be an Einstein to work out that when you're starved for real human contact, you develop an appetite for the virtual kind.

It's just that we didn't think the appetite would be spread quite so widely. We've had bigger attendances at virtual meetings than we got when we met at real places.

It looks like transport to the meeting was a bigger obstacle for people than the technicalities of meeting online.

The technicalities of course aren't very complicated. At the moment, we're using the video-conference app Zoom as our meeting tool.

New ways of working

The conversations have been really good too. We haven't solved all the world's problems, but people have wanted to share how they're handling their own problems.

It sounds like most of us have been trying to keep life as normal as possible. For example, getting out now and then to the shops or for exercise, and sticking with our support program if we have one (while sharing fears with carers and devising new ways of working).

So we'll be doing more of these video sessions. If you're in regional Victoria, or a member of our Women's or Professionals network, you'll be invited by email.

We're also starting a Melbourne Spinal Support Network, for people living in urban and suburban Melbourne. If you are on our mailing list, you will get an invitation each month to the Zoom meeting for that one. Or you can register from the post on our Facebook page where we say when it's on.

We're doing What's Out There (WOT) Days fortnightly online as well.

If you want to join a network but aren't on our mailing list, get in touch with Naz Erdem, Josh Hose or me, at AQA. We'd also like to hear from you if you have an idea for a new group session we could run.

Joining a meeting on Zoom

It is very easy to set yourself up with Zoom, to take part in a meeting.

If you want to use your phone (or a tablet such as an iPad), first you need to download the Zoom app from Google Play - or for Apple devices, the App Store.

If you're using a desktop or laptop computer, you don't even need to do that.

Once you have the app, or if you are on your computer, you just click on the link we email to you for the meeting you want to join.

And then you type in your password for that meeting (which we also provide).

If your computer has a camera, it will ask for permission to turn on the camera.

And you're away - on a video call with the others in the group. It's that simple.

I look forward to meeting more of you somewhere in cyberspace.

Peter Van Benthem is NDIS and Peer Support Coordinator with AQA/Spire. He has been living with a spinal cord injury since 1999. 

Tags: Blog