A simple playgroup has evolved into a dynamic, vital cultural hub for migrant parents at St Brendan’s Catholic Primary School, Bankstown.
Twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays St Brendan’s hosts a playgroup that offers many other exciting dimensions to grow and nurture a community of many cultures as part of the National Community Hubs program.
In addition to watching and helping their pre-schoolers learn and play in a caring community, parents can learn English, learn about cooking from other cultures, access computer classes at the nearby TAFE, take Zumba classes and parenting workshops.
Steffi Dourado, Community Hub Leader, said the playgroup had only been going for a year.
She said building relationships was one of her key strengths and there’s a lot of parents who have been in Australia a while but who still haven’t settled in.
“Initially a lot of parents were disengaged from their children playing – now they understand that it’s good to take part in play with their child, play is an important way of learning,” she said.
“Parents are models for other parents and this then helps create social connectivity,” said Steffi who’s also studying a Master of Education and Development Studies degree with undergraduate studies in Mumbai in psychology and sociology.
Steffi said social connectivity gave parents an opportunity to have a cup of coffee and a chat and take time out for themselves.
One playgroup mother, Hao, said she spent years in her home not speaking English and not wanting to leave her home. After she heard about this playgroup, she and her daughter Chloe (now a Kindergarten student at St Brendan’s) attended playgroup together each week.
Hao continues to visit to support other new parents.
As one father, Ming, who brings his three year old Daniel and has learned to speak English through playgroup said “there’s more care here compared to other playgroups”.
“Sometimes it’s good to talk to parents, how to cook food, handle the kid. I feel very relaxed here, he’s walking around on his own – playing, I can talk to other parents – good for him, good for me,” said Ming.
Volunteer Ying Yu teaches the parents English with childcare available at the same time. Another volunteer Celeste Baron said she brings her daughter and the benefit to her is that it gives her time with her daughter.
“Migrant parents are also now becoming more involved and taking part in the courses. Parents get a lot of help and support as well,” said Celeste.
This is the only playgroup of its type in the schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney, but the program is running in 14 NSW state schools.
Funded by grants from the Scanlon Foundation, Refuge of Hope and Migration Australia, the CEO Sydney has equipped an unused classroom and adjacent room with infrastructure and play equipment for the activities.