Access makes the difference

Edmund Rice Community and Refugee Services provides learning support and social services in an environment where children feel safe, empowered and respected. They operate in Melbourne’s Western suburbs, primarily working alongside children from Refugee backgrounds.

Ongoing COVID-19 restrictions over 2020 meant that by 2021 ERCRS was comfortable with online service delivery, but there were still challenges to overcome.


One of the major challenges was access to technology for their weekly Homework Club participants. Rebecca Nalwanga, one of ERCRS’s Program Coordinators, shared one real story of how this was impacting the kids who attend their Homework Clubs.


“Jessica* a quiet and intelligent young lady in Grade 4, and her sister in Grade 5 had both attended our face-to-face homework club diligently in the past. However, as soon as the lockdown began, they missed their Homework Club sessions for three weeks as their family tried to gather the resources for the online transition,” said Rebecca.


“Eventually the two sisters were later able to attend an Online Homework Club with the help of their mother’s mini-iPad. In contrast to Maya's quiet nature, she actively engages during the zoom break-out rooms where two mentors and one other student interact for 50 minutes, and remains silent when in the main zoom room where over 25 students and 15 tutors interact for 15 minutes.”


“As the homework club transitioned from face-to-face to online extended, the mother of the two girls expressed that one mini-iPad was inadequate in supporting her two daughters’ online homework club sessions.”


Jessica’s mother was one of many parents who quickly expressed their yearning to receive a free laptop loan to ease the stress and logistics of their children’s online homework club and other e-learning tasks.


“Homework Club is so important to me not only because it keeps me up-to-date with my school work but it also gives me time with my friends and I don’t feel isolated and lonely. I look forward to it whether it is online or in person and it’s also fun because it includes other activities”

Fortunately for Jessica and her sister, ERCRS was able to secure 30 donated laptops from Loreto College Ballarat. They were able to distribute these laptops a various Community Centres like Penrose Promenade Community Centre, including to Jessica’s mother.

Above: Program Coordinator Rebecca handing a donated laptop to a Homework Club student’s mother.

This is just one story of how ERCRS was able to continue creating extraordinary moments that change people’s lives.