Keying in to friendship

19 July 2019

A group of nearly two dozen Mandarin-speaking older people are realising friendship is at the touch of their fingertips as they chat and swap stories on their iPads.

A group of nearly two dozen Mandarin-speaking older people are realising friendship is at the touch of their fingertips as they chat and swap stories on their ipads.

The WeChat Group has been rolled out at the Brotherhood of St Laurence Coolibah Centre, championed by its coordinator Marica Cindric.

Now the group has graduated from the WeChat learning program and is using the multi-purpose messaging, social media and a mobile app to share photos, videos, stories of their lives and snippets of Australian and international news.

Marica says the participants embraced learning new technology and are now reaping the benefits.

“Many of them are lonely, and their isolation is exacerbated by their limited skills in English.

“This connects them to with one another. They suddenly are part of a 23-member group with members chattering away about this and that in their own language, and sharing photos, memories and news.”

And according to Marica, the chattering starts early in the morning and goes long into the night.

“Often evenings can be particularly lonely when you live on your own. This enables them to not only swap stories, but also feelings. Sharing helps – and as the members’ friendship grows, so they are able to increasingly support one another.”

Marica says proof that the program is working can be measured by the width of their smiles.

“It’s opened up a whole new world for them,” she says simply.

“It has been wonderful we were able to give them the tools to learn new technology and a new way of communicating.”

WeChat graduate Yusheng Huang describes the program as “a game changer.”

“I’m having fun,” he says. ”I’m never lonely anymore.”

Members of the group also share details about what’s on at the Coolibah Centre and make plans to catch up at the cosy home away from home where there is always something interesting to do.

The Coolibah Centre offers a range of activities including exercise classes, cooking, gardening, meals, table tennis, walking group, art & craft, cross-cultural singing and ipad training.


The Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) acknowledges and understands its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognises that all children and young people have the right to be treated with respect and care, and to be safe from all forms of abuse. BSL has a zero tolerance towards child abuse.
Read the official statement signed by the Executive Director.

The Brotherhood recognises the harm that family violence causes and that freedom from violence is a basic human right.
We will support our staff, volunteers, clients and the community if they experience violence.

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The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.

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