Little Africa by Sr Frances Boston osu
Where am I?
North Melbourne, at Flemington Bridge surrounded by high rise flats which in turn encircled by traffic thundering by on major arterial highways to and from the city in the distance. Beneath these stark high rises, I was surprised to find large trees with leafy branches forming a canopy over grassy areas and attractive playground equipment for the children from these housing estates. Along one side of this area enclosed by a cyclone fence productive permaculture gardens with a wide variety of vegetables
What am I doing.?
Having returned from 46 years in Africa to my home country Australia. Wondering what to do in my retirement I was told the Jesuit Social Services may have something I could help them with. During the interview it was suggested being a volunteer at a Homework Group at Flemington Bridge which meets twice a week: Wednesday and Thursday from 5 – 7 pm. Acceptance depended on whether I could make the journey across the city by public transport. This proved surprising easy.
Welcome to the HOMEWORK CLUB!
The club operates in a hall on the ground floor of a high rise. Before the students arrive, tables and chairs must be arranged in circles. There is also a computer room for the students use to surf information they need. By 5.00pm the pupils burst through the doors. A mixture of ages, boys and girls even some MUMS join throng. After registration students are invited to take a piece of fresh fruit before tackling the challenges of homework. Students range from lower primary to Year 12. There are top students, some really struggling with their studies while most would be of average intelligence. Volunteers also cover a vast age range: young University students, active teachers coming after school and retirees like myself.
Nearly all the students are African mainly coming from Somalia, Ethiopia and Southern Sudan. Surprisingly all the female students wear head scarves over their uniform while the Mothers wear their bourkas. One Mum on learning I had lived in Africa for many years said with a wonderful African smile: “SISTER , HERE IS LITTLE AFRICA!" So correct.
Once the students and volunteers get settled you don’t lift your head for the next two hours. A work atmosphere indeed. Numbers of students vary from session to session, same with volunteers. Students I’ve been working with have stretched my information with their assignments. Topics like: Climate Change, Waste Management, Mental Health, Euthanasia, Drugs and the list goes on and on!
As each session concludes the students stuff their books and lap tops into their back packs, then invariably pause to say: THANK YOU for your help!
Exiting the building I race for my train as darkness envelops the city, board the train tired but a good feeling of being able to connect with both students and their MUMS from LITTLE AFRICA!