New friendships and life skills the silver lining of lockdown at Project Independence

Katrina Condie 3 November 2021
Residents at Project Independence in Harrison

Project Independence residents in Harrison – with house coordinator Sarafina Karmah (right) – made new connections during the ACT’s recent COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Residents at the Project Independence complex in Harrison made the most of Canberra’s recent COVID-19 lockdown by getting to know each other better.

From Zumba and bingo to highly anticipated daily team relays in the driveway, the residents formed new bonds with their neighbours in the social housing development, which is designed to help people with an intellectual disability acquire their own home.

House coordinator Sarafina Karmah designed a range of activities to get residents out of their homes during a time when they otherwise could have felt isolated and lonely.

Visits from family members and support workers were limited due to the lockdown, but Sarafina says as a group, the residents were able to overcome the lifestyle changes.

“The lockdown had some good points for us because it helped build new relationships that will last beyond COVID-19,” she says.


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“Together with the residents we set a daily routine of running together in the morning, then coffee, games and activities throughout the day, such as darts or Monopoly. It was really fun and there was such a positive vibe.

“The residents helped to cook lunches and dinners, and designed the menu for the next day, which increased their independence and gave them new life skills.”

Sarafina says there were noticeable positive behavioural changes as COVID-19 lockdown gave residents a focus on community rather than their own issues and disputes.

Spending time together also strengthened relationships between staff and residents.

Project Independence residents and Sarafina Karmah cooking barbecue

Project Independence residents at Harrison helped house coordinator Sarafina Karmah plan menus and cook meals, including barbecue lunches, during the ACT’s recent COVID-19 lockdown. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Because they were getting to know each other better, the residents looked forward to eating meals together and were constantly checking in on each other.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the eight Harrison residents helped with the housework, learned new computer skills and even gave each other new ‘COVID-19 haircuts’.

Sarafina says the daily relay races on the driveway became an event the residents really looked forward to.

“We had races each day and the winning team would have their names up on the noticeboard,” she says. “They were so proud and it was great fun.”

As the ACT now moves out of lockdown, the residents are keen to continue their newfound friendships and are happy to finally be able to get out and about to see family and friends.

Project Independence residents at Harrison playing pool

Project Independence residents in Harrison got to know each other better during COVID-19 lockdown by taking part in games and activities. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Project Independence is a new model of home ownership, providing people with an intellectual disability with the opportunity to acquire equity in a property, as well as the ability to live as independently as possible.

Up to 10 residents live in three separate social housing properties, with accommodation for a live-in support coordinator.

The project provides a place of safety for residents to grow their independence both financially and socially with guidance and support, while living within a sustainable, safe and caring community.

Residents have their own independent unit and have the option to make the residence their home for the rest of their life, or use it as a part of their transition to full independence.

There is a new Project Independence residence in Phillip, and its waitlist for selection will close at the end of December 2021. Application information is available at Project Independence.


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