COVID-19 may have changed where Ruan works, but it hasn’t changed how he works.
While Ruan now has to work from home and cannot physically meet his clients or hold the same face-to-face programs as before, he has created new programs from the ground up to suit an online environment. These programs allow him to continue to work with his clients, even in the absence of face-to-face contact.
“One of the main differences for me in working from home is that I absolutely love my job because I get to go about and meet clients everyday and we do programs and you build up a rapport with them and connect and engage with them. But with the COVID-19 pandemic I’m not able to do that.
Unfortunately all of our programs had to be suspended or postponed. That meant starting from scratch to create some online programs we can deliver to our clients. So I still get to interact and engage with them now, just in a different way.”
A benefit of the transition to online programs is that Ruan is now also able to reliably reach clients whose attendance at face-by-face programs may previously been limited by distance. Throughout all of these changes, he has been able to maintain his relationships with all of his clients.
“Clients are now logging in from their homes from as far away as Northern Rivers and Adelaide to the Sydney CBD. One great outcome of having to design these programs for an online audience is that clients from regional areas who may not always be able to attend BGF programs are now able to participate too. My relationship with clients has stayed pretty much the same even under these circumstances.”
Ruan is still thinking of new programs and activities with which to engage his clients, empower them, and provide them with useful skills, with several of these having neared completion. He invites anybody who can contribute their knowledge to and facilitate programs and anybody who feels they may benefit from what the programs have to offer to contact BGF.
Amid the uncertainty associated with COVID-19, Ruan’s clients have reported anxieties regarding the availability of necessities such as food and medical care. For some clients, this situation has parallels with the peak of the AIDS pandemic, and they are concerned about marginalisation they may face. However, through BGF’s online programs and activities, Ruan’s clients have been able to remain in contact with each other, improving mental health outcomes and maintaining a feeling of connectedness.
“The concerns I am hearing from clients are about access to food or medications and medical care if required. Some of them are too scared to leave the house, having lived through the 80’s and 90’s during the heights of the Aids pandemic, they are concerned that they will become even more marginalised than they sometimes feel they still are.”
“I can’t speak for other areas of BGF but Programs are helping clients maintain better mental health and keeping them all connected and give them something to look forward to with a couple of regular online activities that they can do from the comfort and safety of their own homes. It’s helping their mental health, social connection and creates a sense of community.”