Chinese students Dai Cheng and Linan Jia volunteer at MannaCare, a community-managed service for older people in Manningham. Dai Cheng and Linan assist residents and visitors with exercise and rehabilitation in Manna Care’s Gym Active program.
Volunteering can help to build language skills and confidence in communicating
After attending a Study Melbourne Live Volunteers information session in March 2018, Dai Cheng and Linan were encouraged to try volunteering as a way of developing their English language skills and confidence to communicate with difference types of people. They are hoping to enter the workforce, and both recognised that volunteering would help them learn about the Australian workplace.
They considered a few options, and settled on Manna Care, after speaking with Tanya Warms, MannaCare’s Volunteers’ Coordinator. MannaCare are warmly welcoming of international students, and Tanya says that students ‘gain contact with seniors and learn how to relate to people much older than they are. They learn and maintain English and Australian sayings’.
Dai Cheng says ‘The older people have more time to communicate with us. They like to share their stories with us, and they are interested in our stories too.’ Linan agrees ‘The volunteer work has nothing to do with what I’ve learnt at university, but provides us with a great many more opportunities to interact with different people.’
Finding meaning and fulfilment through volunteering
While Dai Cheng and Linan travel from the city to Doncaster to volunteer, this is worthwhile as the volunteering is such a meaningful experience. Linan says ‘The best part is helping the older people, and it gives me a sense of fulfilment. I’m very happy to see that they are happy’.
Each time they volunteer, they become more comfortable in doing the volunteer work, and enjoy speaking with the residents and visitors about what they like to do at home, such as cooking or gardening.
They have taken part in training to help them understand how to support people with dementia and correct ways to use rehabilitation equipment, as well as doing their own research into appropriate topics of conversation for older people.
Linan says ‘at first, I was concerned about how to do this type of thing, but there are so many lovely and friendly staff here, and they show us how to help people. I can ask them for help if I have any difficulties.’
Dai Cheng has recently found a professional role in retail, and believes that her volunteering experience played a big part in this. While the supervisor was surprised that she was volunteering in aged care when she has an accounting qualification, she was able to show how her interaction with residents and visitors at Manna Care would help her to give great customer service.
Organisations benefit from the skills and enthusiasm of international students
Tanya Warms, Manna Care’s Volunteers’ Coordinator notes the many benefits MannaCare receives from engaging international student as volunteers.
‘We obtain enthusiastic volunteers who are hardworking. We enjoy the diversity of cultures and languages they bring to our organisation as we have many customers who are also from a variety of countries, cultures and languages. So they make our ‘international’ customers feel at home.’
Gym Active Physiotherapist Wendy Gunnoo says that Dai Cheng and Linan bring a personal touch to their volunteering, and work hard to meet the needs of residents and visitors.
Inspired to volunteer?
To international students who are contemplating volunteering, both Dai Cheng and Linan say ‘Do it!’
‘Instead of thinking too much about difficulties, just make a start. You’ll gain a lot from volunteering’, adds Linan.
Dai Cheng and Linan recommend that international students first think about what they want to gain from volunteering, whether they are seeking to improve your communication skills or they want to volunteer in an area that interests them.
Dai Cheng says ‘Different people have different interests. You can choose from lots of different types of volunteering, depending on what you like to do. We are now looking for some extra volunteering, to gain different skills and experiences.’