A Big Happy Family
CASS Indonesian Activity Group
Many Chinese migrating from Indonesia had experienced racial discrimination in the country in which they were born. They felt they were treated like second-class citizens. Those who could find a way left the country, and many settled in Australia. “Living in this multicultural country down under gives us freedom we had never enjoyed before. We feel respected and supported,” a member of the CASS Indonesian Activity Group said.
The Group was formed in Ashfield in 2003, supported by government funding. Says a member, “When I first came to Australia on my own a few decades ago, I felt helpless and lonely. I learnt of CASS from the newspaper and I immediately made contact with it. When I walked through the door, I had an immediate sense of being at home.” Home is a safe haven and a sanctuary where one can find comfort.
The Indonesian Activity Group members travel from different parts of Sydney to gather at CASS. Some even come from the Blue Mountains. They sing, they dance, they exercise and they socialise. Volunteers prepare delicious lunches, and once a month there are birthday parties.
There is a very strong team spirit in the Group. Shunniang Chan, a retired music teacher, helped to set up the Group in 2003. She felt it was a great opportunity for her to do something for her fellow Indonesians. She was very enthusiastic in gathering many Indonesians and Indonesian Chinese living in Sydney to join. She plays accordion, piano and electronic keyboard, and is also talented in dancing. She teaches Group members singing and dancing with utmost patience and has earned the love and respect from others.
CASS has provided the Group with access to free activities, and has a staff member to assist in managing it. In return, grateful members often perform at CASS events. For example, one talented member teaches others to dance and makes all the costumes for the performances. The Group was also generous in its support for building the CASS Residential Aged Care Facility. On learning that CASS was planning to build a second residential facility, the Group immediately donated its savings of $5,000.
Excursions are organised every two or three months. On a recent sunny afternoon, 126 members gathered at the Seven Hills RSL Club. Some members brought along their relatives visiting from overseas. It was like a huge family gathering, with members busy taking photos and sharing laughter. When CASS organised a cooking competition, a number of members participated. They practised at home, bringing in dishes to share with the Group members and seeking feedback to perfect them.
The warmth of this family has melted the heart of a cancer patient who insists on attending the Group activities every week in spite of his frail health. The loving care of this extended family has given him the strength to fight his illness and he has outlived the time predicted by his doctor. There are also a few other members who are struggling with ill health but still insist on attending the Group every week.
What a great feeling it is to come home! The Indonesian Activity Group is not a temporary shelter, but a permanent home for many Chinese from Indonesia.