The Community Visitors scheme is a wonderful scheme which brings warmth to the lives of our senior citizens living in aged care facilities (nursing homes) who speak languages other than English. Our volunteers visit aged care residents at least twice a month and through these visits help to reduce their loneliness and isolation.
For some people who have few or no family members in South Australia and whose friends may have passed away or are unable to travel these visits can be critical in helping maintain their wellbeing. Some of the residents our wonderful volunteers visit people in facilities where no-one else speaks their language. At times if something is wrong with their resident their feedback to our Coordinator and/or the residential facility can be very important for the wellbeing of the person they are visiting. Their visits can also help reduce the helplessness that people feel when no-one understands what they are trying to say.
Our visitors might help their residents celebrate something important in their culture, talk or read to them in their own language or tell them what is happening in their community. Some other things that our volunteers have done recently on their visits include:
- Talking about their home country in their language
- Sharing stories of their family and past and current life
- Attending a 100th birthday celebration
- Taking a walk around the facility
- Having tea in a café near the Glenelg beach
- Listening to difficulties a resident may be facing and speaking to the staff about this
- Cooking and sharing some of their country’s food
- Giving flowers from their garden and small gifts
- Attending a funeral
- Playing instruments (accordion, piano etc.) and dancing with them
- Reading their communities newsletter together
- Watching TV or movies together
- Attending a celebration event of their home country
- Listening to their home country’s music together
Our volunteers tell us that they gain a lot of joy from volunteering
“It is delightful to see my two elderly clients because they always welcome me with big friendly smiles. They appreciate having a conversation with someone who speaks their language… We share experiences and I learn from them too. This experience of doing something positive at a personal level for the community has been amazing, and has given me a great sense of joy and immense satisfaction”
“I was ‘matched’ with a lovely lady who has the same cultural background as mine, and has lived for more than 90 years. Staff informed me that ‘my lady’ has dementia and calls out often.
From the beginning conversation [if there was to be any] was determined by how ‘my lady’ was feeling. Each visit I introduce myself as a friend who has come to visit. This usually pleases ‘ my lady’. She usually smiles and takes my hand to kiss it. I was overcome the first time this happened. Sometime I just hold and stroke her hands as this calms her. Once she stroked my hand in return. I was so surprised that it made me smile and feel good. Familiar language encourages conversation and allows this lovely lady to express her feelings. This makes my volunteer visits worthwhile.”
Staff from aged care facilities where our volunteers visit also have given very positive feedback about the value of the visits.
“I am very pleased with the MCC CVS Program; it has assisted many of our residents to have socialisation… The positive impacts are holistic and the residents look forward to their new connections.
The CVS Program adds value to people’s lives and provides them with opportunity to have company of another person; it touches their hearts, their minds and their souls. It’s a proven theory that socialisation enhances the quality of a person’s inner self.”
History of the Community Visitor Scheme
The Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia (MCCSA) Community Visitor Scheme (CVS) is funded by the federal Department of Health.
MCCSA was established in August 1995 by the amalgamation of the former Ethnic Communities Council of SA (established in 1975) and the United Ethnic Communities of SA (established in 1980). In 1989 the Aged Care Working Party identified that some culturally and linguistically diverse residents in nursing homes needed socialisation and were very isolated. The Ethnic Communities Council of SA was funded for a trial and this became the first Community Visitors Scheme.
This trial was successful and from these origins grew the national Community Visitors Scheme which is in place today. At present there are approximately 170 organizations that auspice the Community Visitors Scheme with over 5,000 volunteer visitors across Australia.
MCCSA’s Community Visitors Scheme has continued for over 27 years and currently matches volunteers to aged care residents in the Adelaide region. At present we help provide socialisation to over 50 residents a year with bilingual volunteers.
Who are our Community Visitors?
The majority of our community visitors speak at least one other language other than English and many of them were born outside of Australia. The languages currently spoken by our volunteers are: Bosnian, Cantonese, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Serbian, Dutch, Mandarin and Cantonese.
The languages we need continually change depending on the needs of those in residential care so please apply if you are interested but speak a language other than these.
At present we need volunteers who speak Arabic, Chinese, Croatian. Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish, Serbian, Slovakia, Ukrainian or Vietnamese.
Our volunteers like the older members of our community and are interested in what can be shared together. They have a little spare time and are prepared to make a regular, ongoing commitment.
MCCSA’s Community Visitors are aged from 18 to 80 years, come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and all walks of life. They include
- Retired people
- Job seekers
- Working people
What Skills Do Visitors Need?
There is no quick answer to this question because every person who needs a visitor is different and has different needs. If they are visiting someone who does not speak English they need to be able to speak that person’s language. It’s really more a question of what ‘qualities’ are helpful. The most important qualities of Community Visitors are their Commitment and reliability, Ability to focus on another’s needs, Ability to accept responsibility for the growth of the relationship
Becoming a Community Visitor
Once you have an overview of what being a Community Visitor is all about the next step is to complete the ‘Application for Interview’ form and send it to the Coordinator. The coordinator will contact you to make an interview time.
Interviews generally take an hour and are conducted in an informal and relaxed way.
At the interview you will have an opportunity to ask further questions about being a Community Visitor. The Coordinator will learn about your background, personality, abilities and interests so your suitability for visiting different residents can be ascertained. (You might want to visit an aged care home or watch a video about dementia before deciding whether you would feel comfortable visiting someone with a cognitive impairment, memory loss or communication difficulty.)
If there is mutual agreement to proceed with becoming a Community Visitor then the necessary paper work is signed (referee check, police check and agreement about the commitment and responsibilities of being a community visitor).
An induction and orientation session will be arranged either by yourself or with a group of other new volunteers once your police check is received.
We may have a resident who has already requested a community visitor and you may be matched with them immediately or you may have to wait to be matched.
The Coordinator aims to find visitors for people who have the most urgent needs first. If a number of volunteers start at the same time interviews, inductions and matching with residents may have to be prioritised.
If you would like to make use of our service or join our team of volunteers call our Community Coordinator Hee Young Lim on 8213 4604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you.
At present we need volunteers who speak Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish, Serbian, Slovakia, Ukrainian or Vietnamese.