Fusion’s learning to do things differently

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THE battering ram called COVID-19 has placed enormous stress on staff at the Mount Martha-based Fusion Mornington Peninsula.

Some staff are living “on-site” while others are working from home, juggling casework meetings on the phone or video platforms.

Fusion centre manager Caitlin Swanton said over the past eight weeks staff had “needed to adapt to cater to young people in a way we never have before, nor did we imagine we would need to”.

“It has been eight weeks since Victoria went into lock-down … since all non-essential trips out of the house were banned … since our schools closed,” Ms Swanton said when launching an emergency appeal for the Christian youth and community development organisation.

“It is a long time to be isolated from friends, family and normal routines.”

Ms Swanton said for many it had been a “learning curve to adapt, juggling work at home, keeping children entertained and planning how we do normal everyday activities differently”.

For others it has meant the loss of income and “skyrocketing anxiety”.

“Imagine you were living without family, friends or normal routines,” she said.

“Imagine you were couch surfing, living on the streets or living in an unsafe environment.

“Imagine school was a refuge from violence, and being stuck at home for eight weeks has been an increasingly unsafe place to be.

“Imagine trying to access online platforms for learning and connection without suitable hardware or access to the internet.

“This is the reality for the young people Fusion Mornington Peninsula support.”

Ms Swanton said Fusion housing staff had chosen to live on-site to support the young people in their care. “They have adapted to hygiene routines way above our normal processes and they have adapted to having young people onsite all the time,” she said.

“They have needed to care for young people who live with uncertainty.

“Our housing staff have also been managing their own concerns around what is happening in our world today.”

Fusion youth workers have had to take programs online, meeting with young people via platforms that give them access to the homes of young people for the first time. “This has been challenging and confronting,” Ms Swanton said.

“Setting up a variety of online platforms has meant unexpected expenses and the need to support young people to have adequate hardware and internet access at home.”

The broader Fusion team has been working from home, juggling casework meetings on the phone or via video platforms. “This is not the same as a face-to-face meeting where you can gauge a lot more about how a young person might be going through body language and other cues,” Ms Swanton said.

“The team have needed to have suitable office set ups to work from home which has been an additional expense to the centre, but which have been essential to continue our support of young people on the peninsula.”

Donations to Fusion help keep young people safe and connected through this crisis.

Details: Fusion Mornington Peninsula 5974 1442.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 19 May 2020

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