11 January 2024

Ten years and counting - MCCI volunteers share the beauty of the gig

| Dione David
Start the conversation
MCCI volunteer Andrew Crichton helps a student at a Homework Help session

Andrew Crichton volunteers with Homework Help. Photo: MCCI.

Famed philosopher Aristotle once said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. Luckily for Andrew Crichton and John Williams, both hearts and minds are covered by their volunteering gig at the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI).

Both Andrew and John this year marked their 10th year as volunteers for MCCI, primarily for their “Homework Help” program – after-school tutelage held at local libraries for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) in all subjects from English to maths, science to geography.

Over the past decade Andrew, a retired public service computer programmer, has put his hand up for a bunch of jobs for MCCI, from hosting trivia nights to running barbecues and mentoring migrants as they learn to navigate life in their new homeland.

“I once befriended an African man from Eritrea – he had extensive family overseas but knew nobody in Australia at the time. He was on his own, and he’d had a pretty traumatic past,” he says.

“Mentoring him was about socialisation and Visa and other systems navigation. He was a multilingual, intelligent man and he caught on quickly, but if you don’t know the lay of the land and the language, you can be a fish out of water.

“There was a lot of application writing and we managed to get four of his 10 children to Australia. Eventually our contact died down, and it was a good thing because it meant he had started to understand the system.”

READ ALSO Lessons in empathy: Bulli High School students host Illawarra Refugee Challenge

Homework Help is his favourite gig, though.

“You form a bond with the kids and the other volunteers. You get to know people, and it gets you out of the house,” he says.

“When you run into a former student later on and discover they’ve gone on to do university, that’s always really good. There have been lots like that. I’m not saying Homework Help is what got them there, but it’s something.

“They’ve come to Australia, often from traumatic backgrounds, and we’ve helped them during their school years. Seeing them going on to higher education, getting jobs, having families of their own, making places for themselves in a new society, that’s a good thing for us all.”

MCCI volunteers mark 10th anniversary with a cake.

Andrew and John marked 10 years of volunteering for MCCI this year. Photo: MCCI.

John, a retired schoolteacher, says while it might sound purely altruistic, volunteers get a lot out of it.

“Honestly, I do it for me, not for the kids,” he laughs.

“I always enjoyed teaching, helping mould young minds, watching the light come on when they suddenly understand something, and taking that understanding further,” he says.

“The alternative is I’d be sitting at home doing absolutely nothing. Ten years of that? No thank you.”

READ ALSO Jules Mitry cooks meals with meaning in the Balinese Spice Magic kitchen

In his professional teaching career John taught geography, legal studies, economics, commerce and more. Much of his teaching now centres on English.

While his teaching skills have no doubt come in handy, he says anyone can do it.

“You just have to be willing to listen, see where they want to go and guide them through it,” he says.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to teach these children. They and their parents are so grateful for the assistance.

“I’ll probably keep doing this indefinitely … until they tell me to go away.”

For more information visit MCCI.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.