A 21-year-old Western Sydney University student from Oakville has helped connect some of our community's most vulnerable residents through her degree in Health Sciences.
Maddison Hawkins was one of 25 Bachelor of Health Science (Therapeutic Recreation) students who partnered with UNITING NSW.ACT to deliver care packages for the elderly, and connect with them virtually when they were isolated due to COVID-19.
Community placements are an important means of giving students real-world experience. Usually, the programs would be delivered in person, however due to COVID-19 concerns, Ms Hawkins conducted a virtual work placement, which involved connecting with elderly clients over Zoom and getting to know their interests, strengths and goals.
Ms Hawkins created wellness boxes for her clients which - depending on their individual interests - may have contained an iPad, candle making, painting or cooking kits, reading resources, or even books to help them learn a new language.
"Therapeutic Recreation is so interesting because every day is different and there is no limit to what you can do for your client," said Ms Hawkins.
"It's so helpful and vital, and literally anything is possible. If an elderly person wants to sky dive, we can provide a VR headset so they can have the experience of sky diving safely within their home."
She said the results of the work she did with the elderly was "really great".
"We did a satisfaction tool at the beginning of the program, and then again at the end, and in every area the clients were struggling they had stepped up at least two points in the scale, so it was a positive outcome."
Through her degree, Ms Hawkins also completed a virtual placement with North West Disability Services (NWDS), helping clients with disabilities, for her unit on Health Service Management.
"We were designing programs for clients when their whole routine had changed. Changing your daily routine or program for a person with disability is a big deal," she said.
"A lot of people had problems with isolation, and we provided individual programs for people within the Hawkesbury, as well as group activities."
Ms Hawkins lives on a farm and has competed in show riding and dressage in New Zealand.
After her degree, she hopes to conduct a masters in either psychology or health education.