Kayla Szumer with international students who attended the April live-in English language learning week in Buderim.
Kayla Szumer with international students who attended the April live-in English language learning week in Buderim. Maryanne Cameron

Buddy up to extend yourself

HOSTING a Buddies program refugee family and volunteering in its education team can open up a new world for seniors.

Twice a year about 30 refugees who live in Brisbane, attend the Learn English Holiday Program on the Coast.

Most of them are selected through the Multicultural Development Association and St James School.

The program is held twice a year during the April and September school holidays and based at different schools each time. The most recent camp was hosted by Matthew Flinders Anglican College.

As a Homestay host, "it's about opening up your home and your heart," the Buddies Homestay coordinator Kaylah Szumer, 82, said.

"It's about welcoming people who have come from a long way away and from really difficult experiences, from being persecuted. We try to offer them friendship and giving them a feeling of being wanted in Australia."

A volunteer may host a single young or older person, a couple, or a family with possibly two or three children for six nights. Some hosts may have a big home and others may just have a single room available.

The Homestay volunteer is asked to meet the refugees when they arrive on the Coast, accommodate and feed them in their home, converse with their guests, and transport them to and from the location for the program activities.

If you don't have a spare guest room then Ms Szumer said a senior can volunteer as a driver, picking up and then returning the visitors from the education sessions.

She said volunteers are also needed to join the teachers at the learning table, helping with writing, reading, listening skills and conversation through interactive activities.

It's a chance to volunteer within an uplifting inter-generational experience where the visitors, students from the host school and the volunteers can learn from each other.

It's not all hard classroom work. On the Wednesday night there is a multi-cultural dinner where the visitors share with each other and the volunteers food from their ethnic region which they have cooked.

"There is music and dancing, and everyone gets involved," Ms Szumer said. "Last time there was Africans, Tibetans and Syrians. It was a wonderful evening."

In December the volunteers and refugees are invited to a reunion picnic held in the Roma Street Park in Brisbane.

"A lot people also have ongoing contact and invite their visitors up again (to the Coast) for a weekend," Ms Szumer said.

For more information on Buddies and to volunteer, go to refugeebuddies.org or email buddiesleh@gmail.com.

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