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More than just English: Lynne helps Kiran and her new baby

9 April 2021

When Lynne retired, she wanted to do some volunteering to give back to her community. She heard about the AMEP Volunteer Tutor Scheme in her local paper and she now tutors two students. One of her students is Kiran, who arrived from Pakistan in late 2019. Kiran has recently had her first child, and during lockdown Lynne helped Kiran to navigate Australia’s health system, as well as tutoring her in English.

When Lynne met Kiran, she had recently arrived in Australia and she knew very few people here. She was not confident communicating in English and not long after arriving in Australia the statewide COVID19 lockdown started. It was almost impossible for Kiran to meet anyone as we were all isolated in our own homes.

Lynne: Kiran was lonely when she arrived from Pakistan. It took her a while to create a network of friends. When Kiran first arrived I took her to visit some local community centres and we talked about how to meet new people in Australia. We kept up talking every week during lockdown, but it was hard to meet online. We often had phone or video calls.

Kiran: Last year was very difficult. I couldn’t go anywhere and felt all alone at home. In my own country I would have had the support of friends and family, but I didn’t have any friends in Australia.

Kiran’s first child is 15 weeks old, and because of COVID restrictions, Kiran wasn’t able to attend birthing classes before her baby was born. Like many new mothers during COVID, she struggled with looking after her baby all on her own once it was born. Lynne reassured Kiran that she would get the support she needed. She told her about support she could get through the hospital and she explained about the Maternal and Child Health Nurse (MCHN) system run by her local council. One time, Kiran called her local MCHN together with Lynne, and they had a three person conversation to get the help Kiran needed. Lynne was able to help Kiran navigate the health system, and work out the best places to get the support she needed.

Lynne: I’ve really enjoyed tutoring Kiran. Our weekly contact has reassured her that everything will be OK, and I get a real buzz out of that. It is very rewarding. She hasn’t always known what services are available and I’ve been a good bridge to that information. Kiran has a lot of English, but she doesn’t always understand what people say or how to say what she wants appropriately. She couldn’t understand a speaker at her Mothers’ Group and we worked on ways she could ask the speaker to slow down or questions she could ask when she didn’t understand. She did a lot of work herself during the lockdown. We always start our sessions with conversation and she asks me things she needs to learn.

Kiran: I was expecting my mother in law to come and help with my baby but she couldn’t come because of COVID. Lynne is like a grandma to my baby. She shares Aussie recipes and sometimes brings food to share. She visits me and guides me about laws and regulations in Australia. She is helping me to learn the traffic rules so I can get my license. She has taken me to local community centres and helped me to find short courses and activities for mothers and babies. Now I’ve got some friends from my Mothers’ Group and I go to the gym. Because of Lynne, things are getting much better.

My final question to Lynne was about whether she enjoys being a volunteer tutor and whether she would recommend it to someone else.

Lynne: For anyone who has the time, volunteer tutoring is a wonderful way of making someone feel welcome and at home in Australia. I’ve learned things too. It’s opened me up to many things I didn’t know or understand. I’d tell anyone thinking about volunteering to – just do it! It doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s a joy to do it!

And from Kiran, what does she wish she had known, when she first arrived in Australia 18 months ago?

Kiran: It takes time to get settled in a new country. You have to wait, after a year, it will get better. You have to go out and find activities. Say hi to people and they will be kind to you.