The ‘Alonga Disability Centre in Tonga (‘Alonga Centre) has for many years, been the only facility to provide exclusive support for Tonga’s disabled and aged population. Tonga does not currently have a specialised facility for aged care as most aged citizens are still cared for by their families.
The Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) launched its pilot program in Aged Care in July this year, with a cohort of participants who had all indicated their intention to migrate following the completion of the program. Recent studies have shown a significant increase in the demand for aged care workers in developed countries such as Australia and this demand is set to increase in the future.
Sandy O’Brien is the senior trainer for the Certificate III in Home and Community Care and the Certificate III in Aged Care (a joint qualification that will be attained by graduates of the pilot program). After moving to Tonga, Sally had the opportunity to visit ‘Alonga and realised that there was a lot that her program participants could contribute towards the centre.
Recognising the relevance of simulating a real workplace environment for her program participants, Sandy developed the idea of a work placement arrangement with ‘Alonga, which would see the participants of the Aged Care pilot program, spending two weeks with residents. Sandy consulted both her students and the ‘Alonga centre management and realised that beyond the benefits of a work placement to her students, there was also an opportunity to give back to the centre and to its residents.
As part of their work placement activities, the program participants coordinated a fundraising event to raise funds for a much needed renovation and upgrade to the centre’s living area. Together, they put on a show for the community and even included Sandy’s own children who flew in from Australia. The funds raised from the show went towards purchasing materials to create a new social space for the ‘Alonga centre’s residents.
The fundraising concert also gave the program participants the opportunity to show their appreciation to the ‘Alonga centre and its residents for the opportunity to have worked with them.
According to Sandy, “the night was a fantastic success, entirely organised by the very generous and kind hearted Tongan students. We raised 3000 pa’anga. The clients from ‘Alonga came along to watch”.
The work placement opportunity has allowed students to form lasting relationships with both the residents and staff at the ‘Alonga Centre, and to contribute effectively by utilising the skills they have learnt so far at APTC. It has also given program participants an opportunity to witness the potential impact they are able to have within the industry once they graduate.
Finau Latu, a resident at the ‘Alonga centre was ecstatic about the resulting renovated room, saying “we are very happy to have had the aged care students. We appreciate their work and the room now looks like a new room. We now use it in the morning and afternoon for prayers. We also use it to play cards and games. We really like coming in this room now. Thanks to APTC for all your help and your kindness.”