May 7, 2014, by Jill Bennett

Chinese students connect with older people

It wasn’t the usual Wednesday afternoon in the office. I was going to accompany some of our Chinese students from the Nottingham University Business School on a visit to the Willows Day Centre in Beechdale. They had all volunteered as part of the Chinese Culture Sharing programme, a project which has been running in local primary schools for a number of years. For the first time this year it was piloted in care homes and day centres for older people and the Willows was one of five organisations who received sessions.

What happens in a session?

Making Chinese window decorations

Making Chinese window decorations

The students develop their own activities based on Chinese Culture which they then use in sessions that they deliver to an organisation. The members at the Willows made Peking Opera masks, Chinese lanterns, paper window cut-outs, origami cranes and were treated to some beautiful photographs of China. Something we weren’t expecting was the impromptu Tai-Chi class that took place and went down a storm!

What are the benefits?

There are many, but in short the students benefit from the chance to engage with the local community, understand more about the culture here and give something back to the city they have adopted as their studying home. The residents and members of the care homes and day centres get to spend time with enthusiastic young people, learn about a different and interesting culture and take part in some fun activities.

Anyone for Bingo?

Willows Day Centre Chinese Culture Sharing

Oriental art

At the end of the project the staff and members of the Willows kindly invited all the students and University staff involved to an afternoon party to say thank you. It was a memorable and special afternoon for us all. One of the students gave a beautiful rendition of the theme from Evita on the piano and then a group of students sang some traditional Chinese songs whilst she accompanied them. The Willows clients were enthralled. Then it was the turn of the Willows to entertain – with a game of Bingo! Something I had never considered until then was that none of the students had heard of it, so we had great fun explaining the history to such expressions as ‘key of the door, number 21’.

For me, the most delightful thing was to see a friendship develop between a lady from the Willows and one of the female students. Even though they only saw each other a few times, on the final day the student took in a small gift for the lady who was both overwhelmed and delighted with it. I asked the student about it and she told me that she missed her grandparents back home and had really valued getting to know her new friend. Personally, I can’t think of any better reason to run a project.

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