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Volunteer students bridge generation gap

An aged care residence is not your typical hang-out place for teenage boys. However for Parade College student Chris Hides, spending time with seniors at Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) aged care in Bundoora is the highlight of his school week.
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Parade College student Chris says spending time with residents has been a special experience.

Chris, aged 16, is one of hundreds of Parade College students who have volunteered their time to make a positive difference to the lives of seniors at VMCH for over 20 years.

Next week their efforts will be celebrated as part of National Student Volunteer Week (August3-9).

The aged care setting was an unfamiliar one for Chris before he began volunteering last term. “I didn’t really know what I was going into,” Chris admits, “but it was a really great experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do it at. The staff and residents were so nice and welcoming.”

Chris says spending time with residents during arts and crafts, completing the quiz int he paper, playing bocce and just having a chat about the footy over a cup of tea had been a “special experience”.

“It was a good opportunity to connect with the older community and gain a different perspective and see how they live on a daily basis. We spoke about their past, which was sometimes sad, but it was nice to hear their stories. I think going there made them happier, and me happy too actually,” says Chris.

Parade College teacher Darrell Cruse says the intergenerational experience gave the boys a “healthy respect for the older generation”.

“The boys also get the opportunity to use their skills in areas such as music, magicand storytelling to entertain residents. They really do grow up from their time working witht he residents. The sense of responsibility is something they take very seriously,” according to Mr Cruse.

VMCH Volunteer Services Manager Bronwyn Summers says National Student Volunteer Week was a great time to acknowledge the positive difference made by students who regularly visited VMCH sites.

“It gives students an appreciation of the values of the older generation and they learn that ageing is a natural part of life. The visits also allow the residents to relate to another generation, learn about new technology, current trends and even the latest news of the day such as what football team is on top of the ladder,” Ms Summers says.

“When the residents see the world through younger eyes it can make a huge differenceto their day and brings much happiness, therefore alleviating the risk of loneliness and isolation.”

Bundoora resident Barry Smith said: “I’m happy to see the students come in to help. They’re really good kids.”

Find out more about National Student Volunteer Week or about volunteering with VMCH.

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