Ninety-year-old Betty Woods is giving the Territory’s newest residents the best welcome gift of all: the skills that will open doors to their new life.
Ms Woods has been volunteering at Charles Darwin University’s Adult Migrant and English Program (AMEP) for a decade, helping students with their Certificates I and II in Spoken and Written English.
“It is so important to help people learn English so they can communicate and become part of the community,” Ms Woods said. “There are so many misunderstandings that can occur when people from different cultures can’t communicate. It is great to be able to help by explaining and tutoring,” she said.
She said many of the migrants and refugees learning English at CDU have endured enormous struggles on their way to making a home in peaceful Australia. And once here they are keen to learn and work for a happy life.
“I really enjoy that I can help these people, many of whom have qualifications from their own country and the language is their only barrier. Volunteering is a great way to a spend your spare time, have fun and keep learning. It gives me a real energy,” she said.
Ms Woods first came to Darwin in 1947 after working in the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force at the radar headquarters in Melbourne.
“When I first arrived to work in the public service in Darwin there were about 4500 people living here,” she said.
Ms Woods said she was drawn to volunteering at AMEP due to her interest in history and meeting people from different cultures.
“Travelling had always been a dream of mine since I was a small child,” she said. “My first trip overseas was at the age of 53 when I travelled the world using my long-service-leave.
Ms Woods recently travelled to Russia by boat to see St Petersburg and is planning another voyage through the countries along the Black Sea.
National Volunteer Week is an annual week-long celebration of volunteering starting on May 9.
More than 400 students are enrolled in AMEP courses across CDU campuses, originating from countries as diverse as China, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Bhutan and Somalia.
The AMEP is funded by the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship.