Caring for the Community

Whitehorse News - July 2021

Learning lessons in friendship

For over five years, the Box Hill Senior Citizens Club and Melbourne Chinese Christian University of the Third Age (U3A) have worked in partnership to host English language and cultural exchange sessions.

The classes take place on Tuesdays and are run by volunteers from each group. Benjamin Chan, a volunteer from the U3A, worked as a teacher in Hong Kong before coming to Melbourne in 1998.

“When I retired, I wanted to keep doing work that helped others, particularly migrants who need assistance adjusting to life in Australia,” said Benjamin.

Both groups meet at Council’s Box Hill Senior Citizens Centre. They realised that by coming together and sharing resources, they could help Chinese residents brush up on their English skills, learn about their local community and make new friends.

Rosemary Lock, the Secretary and Vice President of the Box Hill Seniors Club also volunteers at the classes and loves the relaxed, collaborative learning environment they have created.

“The focus is on making conversation, which I think is the best way to learn,” she said.

The classes have no set curriculum – students learn through sharing experiences and interests.

“It’s relevant, enjoyable, carefree learning through social interaction,” said Benjamin.

“The students will pick topics of discussion. We might talk about what’s happening in Box Hill, their grandkids, cooking or gardening.”

“We use everyday situations,” said Rosemary, who has helped run excursions to local cafés and markets so that students can put their skills in practice. The knowledge shared in these classes goes far beyond spelling and pronunciation.

“Students often tell us how much they learn from one another, coming from different professions and experiences over a long lifespan,” said Benjamin.

“Learning about each other’s backgrounds is very important,” said Rosemary. “A lot of our students went through difficult times growing up, and here they’ve felt comfortable talking about it.”

“It’s great to feel as though you have contributed to something that has helped others.”