While a time of crisis brings about great tragedy, it can also highlight human resilience, innovation and kindness. This is certainly true of the Polish project, The Good Support Programme (TGSP), or Dobre Wsparcie, which has created an app allowing those most impacted to the virus to access the help and support they need from their local community.
The project, 85 per cent financed through the EU’s Cohesion Policy, was created last year as a way to develop the management of care services. The app enjoyed great success and was awarded the European Commission title of RegioStars 2019 for the most innovative IT tool in social services.
However, in just a few short months the need and purpose for the app has changed drastically.
From facilitating administrative demands, like coordinating doctors appointments, the need for the project has since increased greatly.
Now in the age of social isolation, the real-time geo-location feature of the technology has allowed those homebound and in need of care to send urgent requests, or even just for someone to talk to.
“Through the mobile app, I can receive a message from an old person, or someone living alone who needs help. Based on that, we can deliver food, take the dog for a walk, put the rubbish out, or even just have a chat on the phone,” says Maciej Markowski, the founder of 10TKA, a community support group in the town of Wałcz, in northwest Poland.
The application has four features; good care, which allows for the remote coordination of matching volunteers and social workers with people in need; the good carer, which allows those willing to help to know who and where they are needed; good neighbour which allows communities to connect with those who are vulnerable, from simply walking the dog to buying medicines; and finally the good family, which features an SOS neighbour system that can alert six people in the case or urgency.
These features have made life that little bit easier for those whose lives have been altered by the pandemic. “This support is really important, especially for elderly people. First of all, they are afraid to go out and walk in the street, because of the general feeling of panic. They’re also afraid of getting infected,” says Irena Szperkowska, a beneficiary of the programme.
One unexpected use of the app is its ability to distribute masks, now a valuable commodity. With a few simple clicks, users are able to pre-order masks and other essential items to their door. This is of great help for those who fear leaving home to buy a mask, especially as the Polish government is currently advocating for their use.
Indeed, masks are one of the most frequent requests. Through the app, a group of volunteers are helping to pack and distribute locally made masks and other key essentials to those who need them.
This takes logistic impediments out of care, as TGSP Coordinator Monika Turowska explains: “Thanks to the programme, I have an overview of all the volunteers I work with and a database of all the people in need of home help. The platform is really easy to set up, I just have to type the names of the people we’re looking after, see who’s taking care of them, and assign tasks.”
The project is currently being developed in both English and Spanish, and aims to launch in other countries soon. In the spirit of the project’s greater purpose, TGSP has also made the app free for the duration of the pandemic, making the provision of help to those who need it that little bit easier.
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