29 April 2020Share
The importance of maintaining community engagement during a global pandemic has led to creative teaching and volunteering solutions in a bid to continue to connect students with our communities in need.
While community engagement has always been a fundamental part of the ACU mission, connecting with vulnerable members of our community is even more crucial in these uncertain times. It is a challenging set of circumstances where social distancing both protects our community and simultaneously creates challenges with isolation, mental health, and the closure of much needed community volunteer programs.
For our students undertaking community engagement units, it has been a challenging time to complete volunteer hours, with many of ACU’s community engagement partners closing their doors to volunteers in a bid to protect their vulnerable clients and staff from illness. Teaching students about communities experiencing marginalisation and disadvantage is also challenging during this time. However, staff in community engagement units and programs, working alongside ACU Engagement, have come up with creative solutions to keep students in touch with community and continue to instill values of humility, social justice and human dignity.
Some volunteer programs have moved social interaction online to allow clients and volunteers to remain connected from their own homes. The ACU Centre for Languages, for example, has established virtual catch-ups to allow their International Student Support Program to run throughout the pandemic. Other organisations are using this time to move their focus to project-based work, with the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program offering students the chance to develop training sessions and games remotely.
For students who are unable to complete volunteer hours, ACU Engagement has developed alternate written assessment tasks, specifically a literature review and an exploration of the principles of community engagement, which give students the opportunity to research and learn about a community group from home. Many schools and faculties have also developed their own alternate assessments to engage students with the ACU mission. While this period of time challenges our ability to connect with and support others, thinking creatively, utilising technology and making time for research and reflection allows us to continue to grow our connection to our community even while we are maintaining social distancing practices.
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