Monday, 10 August 2015

Laptop donations make a difference

The clients of numerous community based organisations across wider Gippsland have benefited from the donation of laptops from the Monash University School of Rural Health.

The agencies form a vital part of the school's Community Based Practice  program, run from its Churchill site. Each year agencies who provide care for disadvantaged people in the Gippsland community host medical students as part of a four day rural-based Community Based Practice placement.

Monash School of Rural Health students Megan and Andrew  present
Moe Lifeskills Community Centre students Justin and John with donated laptops.

School of Rural Health Churchill Director, Associate Professor Shane Bullock, said the school greatly valued the contribution of Gippsland agencies, including specialist development schools and other disability support services, to the educational experience of Monash medical students.

“When the students undertake these placements they have a valuable opportunity to observe the outstanding skills of multi-disciplinary teams in a community setting and they are able to contribute to the work of the agency,” Associate Professor Bullock said.

“Understanding the nature of this work, and empathising with it, stands students in good stead on their path to becoming effective healthcare professionals. They come to recognise that these agencies offer valuable services to which they can refer their patients.”

So when an opportunity arose to help these agencies, which all too often deliver their services on tight budgets, the School of Rural Health Churchill was eager to take advantage of it.

Upon the conclusion of a former laptop loan scheme for students, more than 100 laptops have been returned to the School of Rural Health since 2013. Keen to see the HP Elitebook devices put to good use, School of Rural Health Churchill re-imaged them and donated them to multiple Community Based Practice agencies.

The laptops, the final 45 of which were distributed in recent weeks, have been welcomed by agencies including Moe Lifeskills, the George Gray Centre in Maffra, Headway, Quantum, the Heyfield Resource Centre, Baringa School, Cooinda Hill, the Latrobe Special Development School, the South Gippsland Specialist School and some of Gippsland’s councils.

Moe Lifeskills Community Centre Chief Executive Officer Dr Carole Broxham said it was well documented that computer technology and the internet had a “tremendous potential to broaden the lives and increase the independence of people with disabilities.”

Dr Boxham said it was unfortunate that those benefits were “a long way off being realised for some people”, with statistics showing access to a computer at home, and to the internet, was lower for people with disabilities that for the general population.

“The donation of laptops from the School of the Rural Health helps us to address this issue,” she said. “We provide computer training to learners with disabilities and this has meant we are now in a position to loan laptops to students to use at home…this supports them to achieve their learning outcomes and increase their skills and confidence.”

Baringa School Whole School Coordinator Ann-Marie Ernst said the three laptops her school had received were being used to support students’ learning in the classroom and made it easier for staff to support students with fine motor skills to complete tasks.

Cooinda Hill Manager, Support Services Rebecca Massaro said the donation to her service, which provides support to adults living with a disability, had provided clients with “greater access to technology on the move”.

Sale Specialist School Principal Shelagh Donegan said the donated laptops were a “welcome and valuable asset” to the students at her school.

“Some students are experienced users while others are just learning how to access and use computers but these laptops are in good condition, run well and are able to run software specifically for special needs students,” she said.

Ms Doneghan said the extra had also simplified access for students in wheelchairs as they could now use a computer at any desk in the class room.

Headway Gippsland Inc General Manager Jenelle Henry said the laptops were being used to help Headway’s client group develop their social media and internet skills, with the assistance of a program co-ordinator, as part of its social and recreational programs.

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