Jan’s Story: Helping students in Ardeer

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Every Monday and Wednesday, an excited cheer goes up in the Grade 3 and 4 classroom at Mother of God School Ardeer. “Jaaaan! You’re here!” shout the 8 and 9 year-olds as Jan Hird enters the class. Jan, an Ardoch Education Volunteer, will spend the next two hours helping the children with their classroom assignments under the direction of the class teacher Lisa Pisani.

Mother of God is a small but incredibly diverse school in Ardeer, a western suburb of Melbourne. “A large percentage of our students are from immigrant backgrounds. Nine out of the 18 students in my class have English as their other language,” explained Lisa.

“Having another person in the classroom to sit with the children and help them with the assignment is a big help. Sometimes, just verbalising the task’s requirements to Jan is all it takes for the children to understand it.”

Jan is a 49-year-old registered nurse who is currently doing a Diploma in Community Services at Academies Australasia Polytechnic. She came across Ardoch while scouting placement opportunities to fulfil her course requirement.

“I was immediately interested,” she said. “I had volunteered at an Early Years Centre in the past, and had helped my sons during their primary school years. This combined my passion for kids and community service.” Jan is busy all seven days of a week – volunteering two days, attending classes two days, and working the rest of the days at a hospital.

Jan signed up with Ardoch, and was placed at Mother of God more than 12 months ago. She started volunteering with students of Grade 2. By the time the students moved to Grade 3, Jan was so integral to the classroom that the school decided to move her with them.

“What is great is that Jan has been with us for so long. She has built strong relationships with the children, gained their trust. She also understands how we work, and has become a part of the classroom,” said Lisa. (Ardoch asks that all Education Volunteers commit at least two hours every week for six months to a school.)

In particular, Jan has built a strong bond with Milana*, a 9-year-old student who has Cerebral Palsy and struggles to enunciate words. “Jan comprehends her better than even I do, and this has really enhanced her confidence and self esteem. She uses more words and that has improved both her spoken and written language,” said Lisa.

Jan too cherishes her relationship with Milana. “It has been great to see her blossom. She is such a fighter, she just picks herself up and keeps going,” said Jan with pride.

Ardoch thanks Jan for her incredible contribution to the children of Mother of God School Ardeer and hope to see more of her in future.

Ardoch Youth Foundation is an education charity that supports children and young people in disadvantaged communities. You can help us by making a donation or signing up as a volunteer.

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