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March 19, 2020
Culture

Caremongering is the antidote to images of those loveless supermarket aisles

CEO of Junction Australia – a social enterprise housing some of South Australia's most vulnerable people – Maria Palumbo responds to CityMag's call to harbour and disseminate care rather than panic.

  • Words: Maria Palumbo

The times, they are unprecedented.

With social distancing protocols necessary to keep us safe and “flatten” the coronavirus curve, this will mean increased isolation for many people. For many of us this will be challenging – for others it will be really scary and make them even more vulnerable.

Remarks

Maria Palumbo is the CEO of Junction Australia– a leading social enterprise supporting more than 8,500 South Australians each year through housing and community services.

As humans, we are wired for contact with other people.

Remember the movie Cast Away? Leaving the Tom Hanks-Coronavirus jokes aside, the themes his character encountered as a result of being stranded on a deserted island are more relevant than ever.

Overwhelmingly, research shows the links between loneliness and chronic illness and depression. Likewise, the more connected you are to your community, the longer your life expectancy.

Maria Palumbo

People living with physical or mental illness or disability often rely on community support groups and gatherings for human interaction and connection. Without these links, life will be different. Perhaps the things they most look forward to – the people they can’t wait to see each day, or week – won’t be able to continue.

While we need to be careful and observe the warnings in place, we can still ‘reach out’ safely and look after each other.

How can we do this?

Caremongering is key. We have the power to create our own pandemic of goodwill and kindness – on and offline.

Our neighbours can be an easy place to start. Having a chat over the fence, even bringing your own cuppa along, might be a great way to catch up or get to know those next door.

Getting back to basics can also mean picking up the phone and ringing people – maybe even using the circumstances as an opportunity to touch base with extended friends or family who you haven’t spoken with in a while.

Embracing technology, for those who are able, can also be helpful. Send a text or an email, or even better – FaceTime, as a means of checking in, particularly with anyone who you think might be struggling.

Look for options of digital versions of community events – positive, online community groups or virtual groups you can join. For instance, why not take your play group or parent group online? We are looking at implementing this for some of our groups run out of Hackham Community Centre.

At the same time, be mindful of groups or chat rooms that are making you more anxious, ensuring those you are keeping in touch with are supportive – that is what caremongering is really all about.

Above all, it’s important to remember these are unusual times. We are not alone. Amid the COVID-19 impact, caremongering will go a long way.

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