In mid-August there was a worrying COVID outbreak in Shepparton schools which put 25 percent of the population in isolation overnight. Annette Borradale, CoAct / Interact’s Recruitment Partner in the region, shares how the community came together during an incredibly challenging few weeks.
“The outbreak had a huge impact on families, education, jobs and people’s ability to find food and other essential goods,” says Annette. “We had to prioritise our customers’ basic needs over employment for a few weeks. The situation was dire.”
Lockdown was announced early afternoon on 20 August, just a few hours before it was about to start. A list of the schools where there were cases of COVID was also published. Annette took one look at the list and knew which of her clients were directly impacted and needed to isolate. She made individual calls to them all to let them know what they needed to do. She also made sure the rest of her clients were aware of lockdown and the rules that applied to them and their families.
Over the next week, all of Shepparton’s major supermarkets were revealed as tier one COVID sites and had to shut down for a period. This put additional strain on the local community.
“Shepparton is a multicultural community and many of my customers don’t speak English as a first language,” Annette continues. “They’ve needed additional support to understand how lockdown affects them, where to find essential goods and services and also how to go about getting vaccinated.”
Annette has helped many individuals over this time, offering help above and beyond what’s expected of her as a Recruitment Partner. This has included connecting customers to a foodshare service, arranging deliveries and dropping off food parcels herself. She’s also helped her jobseekers find their local vaccination hub and book an appointment. She’s even offered to go to the appointment, and any other medical appointments, that her customers may need reassure and support with.
“The hardest thing for many of my customers has been to ask for help,” Annette says. “Many are afraid to leave the house for health reasons and that puts them in a really challenging place when it comes to sourcing food and looking after their health.
“I’ve needed to probe and ask lots of questions for them to open up and actually share what’s going on. One lady I’ve been working with felt too embarrassed to admit she didn’t have enough food to feed her family. Instead she and her partner were taking turns to miss dinner so their child could eat.”
On top of the pandemic, the Afghan crisis emerged. Shepparton has a strong Afghan population and many have families who are still there. Annette has spent several days helping her customers connect with local embassies and translation services so they can make calls to loved ones and find out whether wives, children and families still alive.
Amanda Petts is the regional manager for CoAct / Interact and has been deeply moved by Annette’s generosity. “Annette has been providing essential support to our community over a very challenging few weeks and made a real difference to many people’s lives.
“She’s looked out for the welfare of her customers and their families and worked long hours to make sure they’re safe. A mother herself, she’s juggled both her community and own family. She’s put food on many tables, provided crucial health information and facilitated vaccinations, phone calls and GP appointments. I couldn’t be prouder.”
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