HORSHAM Men's Shed is looking to embrace the new year as the group aims to re-open to the public in February.
Wimmera Primary Care Partnership executive officer, Geoff Witmitz, who organises the Horsham Men's Shed, said while 2020 temporarily shut the men's shed down, it provided a powerful lesson in keeping the community connected.
"An interrupted year is what I would say," Mr Witmitz said.
"There's been a lot of learnings from that about how we communicate as a group, because one of the things that sheds are put in place for is to reduce isolation.
"We in a rural setting, and the older generation, haven't had the chance to embrace technology and I suppose that is one of the biggest learnings in 2020."
Mr Witmitz said establishing a way for the men's shed members to communicate was a big hurdle throughout the year. Face-to-face meetings had to be cancelled as the community was a high-risk group.
"The sole purpose of sheds was to reduce isolation and we found that COVID ended up putting people back in isolation from their friends and families," Mr Witmitz said.
"Lets just say that COVID had a negative impact in terms of the main purpose of sheds, which is providing a safe space for men to get together."
As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, and stricter lockdown measures were implemented, the Victorian Men's Shed association had a meeting to discuss how to maintain their connection with the community.
Mr Witmitz said Horsham Men's Shed started by trying to keep members informed on the situation as it developed.
"With COVID-19 information and misinformation overload was huge. So in Horsham we started, for example, a text message tree," Mr Witmitz said.
"We didn't go overboard, very simple and just kept people informed over time. What happened is that people in that group looked after one another."
Many men's shed groups had to get creative to reduce the isolation of their members, some sheds started writing letters to one another.
"I suppose that they are learning that old levels of communication, snail mail, are still quite relevant to them because they can relate to it and it's what they know," Mr Witmitz said.
However, as the year passed on and lockdown grew longer Horsham Men's Shed found face-to face communication was key to maintaining a strong relationship with the community.
Mr Witmitz said having not seen one another for so long reinforced the core ideals of the men's shed project.
"As we got towards the end of lockdown, even though people could write and chat on the phone, we discovered that across the catchment people had not had a face-to-face interaction in a long time," Mr Witmitz said.
"I know that as COVID restrictions started to lift, particularly from the rural outreach program, they were some of the first people they had seen in months."
After taking a break over the Christmas holidays Horsham Men's Shed has prepared for a big year in 2021.
Members recently opened up the shed for the first time in a long time to look at the metal fabrication machinery and see what needed attending.
The group hopes to be fully operational and open to the public in February.
"We are going to crank it up in February and hopefully we won't have to stop. We realise that we have to live with a new COVID normal so there is a COVID safe plan in place and hygiene has been attended to," Mr Witmitz said.
"In essence we have good plans going forward to cope with the situation as it arises."
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