Building connections through language

Co.As.It. offers Allied Health services to the community

Maria Pousinho eagerly awaits her weekly physiotherapy session with Ian Martins, one of the Allied Health Team professionals of Co.As.It. Community Services. It is not just about taking care of her physical health but, more importantly, about building connections and sharing stories that revolve around a common factor that binds them both: the Portuguese language.

The 77-year-old Portuguese is commonly described as an introverted person, someone who avoids speaking English. However, the shyness gives way to comfort when she is with Ian. “Ian takes me for a morning walk around the block, helping me to get warmed up for the rest of the day. During our walks, we seize the opportunity to talk about family and life in our own language,” says Maria. “I miss speaking in Portuguese, and I’m not comfortable with English; that’s why I prefer to stay quiet when I’m among people whose English is their first language.”

Maria and her family landed in Brisbane in the early 1980s, driven by a desire to have a better life. Her origins date back to a small village in central Portugal. Ian, on the other hand, came from Brazil and joined Co.As.It. Community Service in 2023. “I feel fulfilled by performing the profession I love and, at the same time, stepping up through the language to make a lovely client feel, somehow, closer to her origins,” says Ian.

At Co.As.It. Community Services, 85% of the staff speaks at least two languages, narrowing language barriers and strengthening the bonds of a crescent multicultural community.

Student work experience at Casa Serena

Casa Serena is a Respite Centre in Stafford Heights

Kelvin Grove State College students undertook an inspiring one-week work experience at Casa Serena in December, organised by Co.As.It. Community Services and the Italian Language Centre (ILC).

Three Year 10 students assisted the respite centre’s clients with playing games, exercising, serving their lunch – but above all, brightening the clients’ days with kindness and affection.

This initiative combined Italian language and culture with work experience, as the students were responsible for welcoming the clients upon their arrival and learning more about their lives.

ILC Teacher Giovanna Amatruda supervised the students’ progress. “We put a booklet together detailing the proper words to use when speaking to the clients. The brochure had a section where the students had to practice using English and Italian when reflecting on their experiences and the skills they had gained.”

Students were prompted to discuss topics such as the cultural aspects of family for immigrants and female participation in the caring industry. Casa Serena staff welcomed the girls as part of the team, ensuring they had a fruitful week of learning at the centre.

“The staff was really unbelievable, making the students feel comfortable by encouraging them to ask questions and to observe how the caring tasks were performed,” says Giovanna.

“As they grew more confident over the days, and the clients got to know them better, their relationship blossomed into something great with beautiful smiles and laughs.”

The students had already visited Casa Serena in the past with a bigger group as part of the Immersion Day organised by the Italian Language Centre. At the time, the students interviewed the Italian clients of Casa Serena about their experience as immigrants.

Kelvin Grove College teacher Amanda Kennedy praised the initiative, affirming that Co.As.It. and ILC are creating something incredible for the students and community. “We are so blessed to have you as part of this project. We truly are creating experiences for our students so that they can become “globally competent learners, leaders and citizens. We are making it happen thanks to you.”

Andrew and Tim: a heartwarming story of friendship and multiculturalism

NDIS client with his Community Care Worker

“Tình bạn” is the Vietnamese word for friendship and a major component of the synergy between NDIS client Andrew Vo and Community Care Worker Tim (Thinh) Truong.

Andrew arrived in Australia with his sister in 2000, coming from South Vietnam. He has been receiving services from Co.As.It. for approximately five years and has Tim as his big brother.

“Tim helps me with my outdoor activities. He takes me to the Vietnamese shopping centre and explains to the retailers what I need,” says Andrew. “Our friendship makes me feel closer to home as Tim is also from Vietnam, and we speak the same language.”

The work Tim has been developing with Andrew is part of the multicultural roots of Co.As.It., which aims to communicate with clients as if they were in their homeland using their native language.

Andrew and Tim are together every week and have an intense routine of indoor activities: taking strolls by the river, fishing, enjoying the benefits of the social support groups, hitting the gym and learning Spanish.

“I love diversity and the fact that Brisbane is so multicultural. Sometimes, I have the feeling that the world is getting smaller because all the languages spoken worldwide are in Brisbane. Learning Spanish is me embracing diversity,” concludes Andrew.

Technology Classes: a life changer for Kaylene and Brian

Amici House Tech Classes

The Technology Classes at Amici House have been life-changing for Kaylene and Brian Tayler. An overseas trip on the horizon weighed in on the decision to learn how to use the much-feared cell phone.

Kaylene began her classes at the beginning of the year. She would make and receive phone calls and play a few games. She has worked her way up to learn how to take photos, search on the Internet, and change her phone settings.

“Technology and I’ve never mixed up. Now, I’m slowly picking up my confidence. I don’t hesitate to try a few things,” says Kyleene. “When overseas, I’ll be able to contact my kids and my 90-year-old mother. I’ll use Maps to find stuff, get directions, and everything else.”

In the same way, Brian’s relationship with the cell phone was even more meaningless before the classes. He hadn’t had a mobile phone for ten years, and life was fine. It all changed when he got a new device—a fresh start on learning basic settings and controls.

Knowing the ins and outs of the Internet, texting, and saving data by connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network are some of the valuable lessons Brian has learned at Amici House. Not to mention, his confidence is high ahead of the family trip.

“I have been looking carefully at Google Maps, its benefits, options, and operation. We will not get lost from each other now that we have our phones,” concludes Brian.

Christmas Art Exhibition at Amici House is a success

Amici House hosted on December 13 its second Christmas Art Exhibition with paintings created by the NDIS and Community Art Classes participants. Under the flag “Community and Belonging,” a wide range of artworks were displayed, attracting hundreds of guests.

A senior community choir set the festive mood with carols while guests admired the artwork. Amici House Art Teacher Ali Gillet, one of the most engaged at the event, was “floating in the air” with a large and proud smile she didn’t make sure to hide.

“I’m really proud as I walk around and see what’s happened over this year. You can see where the students started and where they finished up. Their paintings become more courageous,” Ali says.

“I have seen them grow as a community. At the end of the classes, we put our brushes down a little bit early and then walk around and congratulate each other on our work. You can feel the friendships growing, and that is 100% of what Amici House is about.”

Leena Miettunen, a Community Art Class participant, had her artwork exposed at the event. She celebrated a busy year filled with accomplishments and Ali’s guidance throughout the months.

“I started last July. Ali [the art teacher] is very good because she gives direction and teaches you. You want to learn how to use your brush to create the effects you want, and that’s what Ali brought to us. She is teaching us to have a clinical eye,” Leena says.

“Having my artwork exhibited is a compliment. This is a true reward for showcasing what we have done this year.”

NDIS Art Class participant David McDermott had four of his paintings exhibited. Fairly new to the classes, David predicts a bigger event for 2024.

“I have been attending the art classes for three months, and it is awesome to have my paintings displayed for the community. I’m very proud,” David says. “I love painting; it relaxes me. Painting birds and animals is what I like most. I can’t wait for next year’s exhibition.”

Amici House is a Community Hub in Brisbane that runs activities and services for older Australians and members of the local community and beyond. Visitors enjoy yoga classes, art classes, women’s groups, technology classes, Latin dancing, NDIS art and yoga classes, and health services such as podiatry and physiotherapy.

Hamper Season warms clients’ Christmas

Co.As.It. Coordinators annually deliver hampers to the clients.

The “hamper season” brought comfort and light hopes for a warm Christmas to many clients of Co.As.It. Community Services. Program coordinators delivered the baskets throughout December for those who had faced social isolation, economic hardship, or depression in 2023.

It has been three years in a row delivering hampers. What started as a small good deed ended up becoming something very special. Clients demonstrated gratitude after being gifted with a fine selection of products.

“Receiving a hamper like this makes us feel very special. It makes us feel remembered,” said a Home Care Package (HCP) client. “We are delighted as now we get to eat something on Christmas Day,” a Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) client revealed.

Co.As.It. NDIS Coordinator, Melissa Meyer, highlighted the sense of community and generosity as a result of the hampers delivery. “We value our clients and want them to feel cherished. It is priceless to spread joy in the holiday season.”

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IWD 2024

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International Women’s Day

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Co.As.It. invites you to International Women's Day 2024


Geppina Esposito: 100 years of courage

Co.As.It. client celebrating her birthday at Casa Serena.

Geppina Esposito was busy; she had to pose for dozens of cameras, be attentive to her many friends at Casa Serena, and be prepared to receive the sash and the golden crown. After all, it’s not every day someone turns 100, especially a lady ahead of her time. Decades ago, when the gender gap was even more accentuated, Geppina stood out and learned the profession of telegraph operator. In 1958, she said goodbye to her hometown, Montesarchio, in Italy, to study English in London. Courage and drive have always walked side-by-side with the lovely centenarian.

It was in February 1960 that she met her future husband, Giuseppe, whom she married in June of the same year. In September, the newlyweds were ready to board MN Neptunia bound for Brisbane. After settling in the new land, the family got bigger with the arrival of Luigi, Rosa, and Anna, their three beloved children. On November 17th, Geppina commemorated a remarkable milestone with her family and friends at Casa Serena, one hundred years after her birth. The Consul of Italy in Queensland and the Northern Territory, Luna Angelini Marinucci, gifted Geppina with an official letter from the Consulate during the celebration. “I am truly honoured to be able to celebrate this very important event with you today, a milestone of one hundred years of age. Her life is truly adventurous,” said the Consul.

Rosa, Anna, and Luigi, Geppina’s daughters and son, celebrated the special date next to their mum. “It’s important that she has arrived at this milestone with her close friends because she adores coming to Casa Serena. It’s a big achievement to get to such a number,” says Rosa. “Our mother is strong, determined, and stubborn; that makes her special,” Anna and Luigi complement.

*FOOTNOTE: Among a piece of cake and a smile for the camera, Geppina found time to describe the secret of longevity. “I eat vegetables and drink coffee every day. Never alcohol! I can’t stay away from the local and Italian newspapers and my TV shows.”

How Amici House helped Robyn access My Aged Care services

Amici House in Brisbane

Robyn Hollis (73) had never fully understood the process and eligibility to access My Aged Care services – this was before learning the nooks and crannies of the system at Amici House. My Aged Care (MAC) serves as the initial step towards accessing Australian government-funded aged care services. For years, Robyn believed that the assistance scheme was only for older adults in their 90s, living in a wheelchair, and receiving nursing home care.

Robyn’s misconception of aged care services got even more accentuated after her same-age friend tried registering online without success for MAC early this year. “She received a message informing her she wasn’t eligible to apply. I thought that if she couldn’t get through, I wouldn’t worry about it anymore given its difficulty and complexity,” explains Robyn.

Little did Robyn know that her luck was about to change. Having a cup of coffee with friends at Amici House, she was approached one day by the centre’s manager, Barry Egan, with the question: Do you know My Aged Care?

“I told him that a friend of mine was considered ineligible and that it was pointless to insist on it as I wouldn’t be eligible either. That’s when he offered me help,” says Robyn. “I came back the following day, and we sat together. It was just like sitting down with my best friend and chatting. Registering for MAC was so easy, as Barry was so welcoming and friendly.”

That day, Robyn walked out of Amici House with her My Aged Care number. Within one week, she received a visit from one of the Co.As.It. coordinators, where she was guided through the entire process of getting aged care services. In a short period, she began having physiotherapy and podiatry sessions and receiving domestic assistance.

After her experience with the Amici House staff, Robyn became an aged care advocate, spreading the word about organisations such as Co.As.It. leading the way in keeping older adults safe at home. “I struggled to understand MAC, and, in a few minutes, I was registered, thanks to the helpful and supportive staff of Amici House. I wish people could have an Amici House close to home,” concludes Robyn.

Gold Coast clients visit students learning Italian

Italian language student with a Co.As.It. client

South Coast clients visited Coombabah State High School on the Gold Coast in a celebration of Italian culture and language. Welcomed by the Italian language students and teacher, the clients had a lovely morning tea organised by the school and lots of fun with trivia games divided into three categories: geography, music and general knowledge.

Students and clients teamed together throughout the games, lifting everybody’s spirits. Each team had to submit a quick answer to win the round – all participants were sharp. Chocolates were drawn at the end of the competition.

“The connections between our clients and the students are a big fulfilment for them. It allows our clients to tell about their experience as immigrants and share their ethnic heritage and culture,” says Juny Spagnolo, Social Group Activities Coordinator of Co.As.It. Gold Coast.

“These international exchanges create meaningful connections, positively impact the mood and promote a better understanding of different generations, combatting negative stereotypes.”

It is important to highlight that Coombabah State High School is one of the schools receiving support from the Italian Language Centre (a division of Co.As.It.) for their Italian program.