Medical students, Mitwa, Avisha and Aryan, first met four years ago while studying at Monash University. Despite busy schedules of their final year in medicine and working full-time as student doctors in Melbourne hospitals, most Saturdays the three friends volunteer together at our Monash Gardens residential aged care home in Mulgrave.
Mitwa, who spent his early childhood in Malaysia and moved to Australia when he was just nine years-old, first began volunteering at Royal Freemasons in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic.
He restarted his volunteer role at the beginning of the year, and encouraged his friends, Avisha and Aryan, to join him.
“We come in on Saturdays and run a coffee shop together, which involves us making coffees for the residents, giving them morning tea and talking to them. It’s kind of like running a café,” Mitwa says.
“When we get the chance, we try and do an activity of some sort, like a boardgame, drawing or colouring. We have also done arts and crafts, ball game exercises and dancing.”
Avisha says volunteering in aged care is a good way to contribute to the community, learn new skills and gain life lessons.
“The residents are always telling interesting stories. For them, it’s nice to have someone to talk to, and reminisce about their lives and all the memories they have had,” Avisha says.
“It’s always interesting as a young person to hear their perspectives or the mistakes they have made, because it gives you a new perspective on things you are doing in your life.”
Mitwa agrees, “They are present in the moment. Sometimes we are looking at our phones and we are not always there, but they didn’t grow up with that. They have heaps of life lessons.”
Aryan says the residents have much to offer the younger generation.
“It’s their perspective in hindsight of the experiences they’ve had. As young people, we don’t have a lot of hindsight yet,” he says.
“Hearing what they have learned and what they would do differently. It’s their stories from a different time, what their priorities were and it’s cool to compare how things have changed.”
Volunteering in aged care has helped the small team of student doctors to develop their communication skills and ability to connect and engage with elderly people.
“Volunteering helps you to communicate with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. It’s also a great opportunity to give back to the community in which I was raised. I feel like I am doing my part,” Mitwa says.
Aryan says volunteering can also help to contribute to mental health and wellbeing.
“Medicine can be quite busy, but there is still time to do other things you are interested in like playing sport or volunteering at Royal Freemasons,” Aryan says.
“I am interested in what I study, but I don’t want it to be the only thing that I do or get involved in. They complement each other – you need to be happy outside of study.
“At times it just feels like a social commitment – you are working in the coffee shop, handing out coffees and everyone chats. That is part of our job, and it’s really enjoyable.”
To anyone considering volunteering in aged care, Aryan says they will find it rewarding.
“I would definitely recommend it, because even though you are helping out the residents and giving back to the community, you get a lot from it too.”
Mitwa adds, “If you are someone who needs people skills in whatever you are doing – it helps from a self-improvement perspective. And you are helping others, it’s always good to give back.”
If you would like to join our Helping Hands volunteer program, please visit royalfreemasons.org.au/become-a-volunteer and register your interest today!