Macedonian Australian Welfare Association of Sydney to provide digital devices to help people stay connected

Keeping connected: Macedonian Australian Welfare Association staff Roza Georgieva and Lihnida Bahcandzieva-Taseska. Picture Supplied

Keeping connected: Macedonian Australian Welfare Association staff Roza Georgieva and Lihnida Bahcandzieva-Taseska. Picture Supplied

A $1 million grant announced by Good Things Foundation Australia will be used to provide digital loan devices through its Be Connected program.

The one-off payments of $2500 to $5000 will be made to existing Be Connected network partners to purchase digital devices and sim cards for clients.

Good Things Foundation Australia is a federal government-funded organisation, which is working to address the 'digital divide'.

National director Jess Wilson said it was estimated 2.5 million Australians did not have access to the internet.

She said the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated the feeling of isolation for many people, especially the aged and those from multicultural backgrounds.

"Access to the internet is absolutely essential during these incredibly isolating times, particularly for older Australians," she said.

The Be Connected program is currently run by 3000 community groups across the country who provide digital literacy training for people over 50 to ensure they stay connected.

Prior to coronavirus restrictions, the network partners ran face-to-face workshops, which have now been moved online. But many clients do not have access to the digital devices they need to complete the work.

The Macedonian Australian Welfare Association of Sydney at Kogarah has been providing well-being and community support for Macedonian and former Yugoslavian communities for 37 years, including mentoring and coaching.

It will use its grant to purchase digital devices which it will then lend to clients over 50 who don't have access to their own.

Clients will be taught how to use the devices to stay connected with family and friends, including those overseas, through phone calls and video messaging.

The devices can also be used for other purposes, including accessing traditional music or dancing, watching Macedonian cooking classes or finding recipes.

Macedonian Australian Welfare Association of Sydney chairperson Elena Zdraveska said: "Now more than ever, older people need support, as they are the most vulnerable and they have barriers and questions.

"We are here to provide answers, reassure and support them, and assist them to get connected in culturally appropriate ways," she said.