What better way to practise your language skills than to speak to the experts! In a heartwarming intergenerational experience, students at Holy Spirit College, Bellambi have visited the Italian residents of Marco Polo Aged Care to get to know about life in Italy and put their beginner Italian to the test.
The opportunity came from a grant given to the Illawarra Association of Teachers of Italian by the NSW Minister of Multiculturalism, the Hon. Ray Williams MP, aimed at enhancing social connectivity in nursing homes.
The Holy Spirit Italian Beginners students were keen to connect with the residents of the Woonona aged care home, many of whom have a multicultural background.
They engaged in basic conversational Italian and enjoyed Italian film clips and songs together. The students also asked the residents questions about their time in Italy and their experience moving to Australia.
The visit was intentionally planned around Refugee Week, so students could better appreciate some of the struggles experienced by those who left Italy during the war, coming to Australia for a better life.
“We were keen to find out where they used to live in Italy and if they speak any other languages,” Year 7 student, Gem said.
The children also treated the residents to a special nostalgic concert, singing old Italian folk songs – to which the Marco Polo community readily joined in, filling the room with boisterous singing and clapping along.
“The aim was to enhance connections between first generation Italo-Australians and current students of the Italian language,” Holy Spirit Languages teacher, Vera Cleary, said.
“The visit developed a deep sense of respect and compassion towards the residents. This was accomplished in a relaxed conversational setting, where students asked questions, listened to stories and became aware of the significant contribution these residents have made to our society” — Vera Cleary, Languages teacher, Holy Spirit College
Just as the experience was beneficial for the Holy Spirit children, so too was it for the older generation. Many were grateful for the youthful company and pleased to be able to share their life story – in particular, savouring the energy the students’ visit brought to their day.
“Mum enjoyed it. They asked her questions [in Italian] and she could talk to them. She understood them – she doesn’t speak English that well – so she enjoyed it,” a daughter of one of the residents commented.
“When they see young kids, they think they see their grandkids. They’re happy! All grandparents are happy to see young kids, it doesn’t matter if they’re their own grandkids or any other kids,” another resident said, delighting in the liveliness of the room.
“It was nice, because I don’t think they get to see many children around here,” Year 7 student, Lainey, added.
Mrs Cleary said the day was a great success for everyone involved. “Both the residents and students found this social event beneficial and formative,” she said.
“Our students were thankful to gain many insights from the residents and receive the attribute of love through their wise words of encouragement. They interacted with the residents respectfully and responsibly, and as a result, developed strong connections with these valued members of our community” — Vera Cleary, Languages teacher, Holy Spirit College