Connecting in a Strange Time

Reflection by Helen BurtPost Covid Melbourne was a strange time. Connections were often broken by the lockdowns, and it could be hard to re-establish friendships and contacts when the lockdowns ended.

During the second (and longest) lockdown I moved into a new apartment in inner-city Melbourne. I was hoping to make some new contacts and particularly wanted to find some volunteer opportunities. As I’m a wheelchair user, it can be difficult to find a role that fits.

Of all places, I found out about Social Health Australia on Facebook. The companioning program just seemed to make sense to me, the idea that loneliness and isolation can be an existential issue for people, threatening their wellbeing and in some cases their ability to function.

I immediately thought this is something I want to be part of, as a volunteer companion. While I quickly filled out the application form, I was worrying in the back of my head that being a wheelchair user could be an impediment to my involvement. But my first contact with Annie allayed any concerns as she said that everyone has a role to play and it would work out.

Unfortunately, I was very busy with other things when the program started, so it took me some time to be ready to be involved, but eventually, I was matched with someone who was part of the program. My role was to keep phone contact with a lady who had become very isolated during the Covid lockdowns. Another companion was going to visit her and take her out.

It has been wonderful to see my companion’s life and happiness expand in the time I have known her. It has shown the absolute importance of human connection – whether it means support for the little things like solving IT problems or meeting the core human need for connection with other people.