University student lends a helping hand to Pingelly’s ‘virtual village’ program

Isabel VieiraNarrogin Observer
Helen Molton and Tess Mansfield
Camera IconHelen Molton and Tess Mansfield Credit: Pingelly Somerset Alliance

The team behind the Pingelly Virtual Village enlisted University of WA student Tess Mansfield to help get the pilot program ready to launch later this year.

The village is an innovative program backed by the Federal Government to create a new aged care model for several southern Wheatbelt towns.

The concept is part of former WA mental health minister Helen Morton’s ‘Staying in Place’ program which aims to enable elderly residents to keep living in the regions by providing services they would otherwise need to outsource.

The village will give residents in Pingelly, Wickepin, Cuballing and Wandering access to aged-care services such as connecting members through social activities to help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.

The Pingelly Somerset Alliance, which is spearheading the program, sought the help of fourth-year marketing and finance student Ms Mansfield through the McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship program at UWA.

Ms Mansfield said conversations with people in the community “opened her eyes” to the importance of accessible aged care services in country towns.

“Hearing people’s stories about how their loved ones have had to move hours away because the town couldn’t provide the assistance and care these people needed made me more motivated to try and help (this program) as much as I can,” she said.

“The benefits of this program for the communities are priceless.”

During her internship, Ms Manfield developed a marketing strategy to help connect the local community with the virtual village program.

Ms Morton said Ms Manfield’s support was invaluable.

“Tess provided professional advice and practical assistance to brighten our early marketing materials, making them more vibrant and appealing,” Ms Morton said.

“The templates she has left us for website, social media and newsletter options are already in use.”

In December, the Pingelly Somerset Alliance delivered a letter to each household in the four local government areas inviting them to become foundation members of the village.

Ms Morton said they had reached 50 per cent of their target member numbers before their planned launch in mid-2022.

“As a foundation member they will be helping with a variety of features that we need to sort out to get the village properly underway,” she said.

“Things like technology, our activities program, membership services such as creating an internal volunteer and buddy system, resource system and making sure we have good information onboard to provide advice on aged care services.

“We see it as a grass roots development, the foundation members will help to shape the way the village will operate.”

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