The Bribie Island and District Neighbourhood Centre is recognised as being able to offer a diverse range of services to those who need them and these include personal, family and debt relief counselling, tax return assistance, emergency relief and also a free food distribution through the Tuesday morning Neighbourhood Harvest. The centre also a variety of courses throughout the year and the subjects include parenting and dealing with addiction.
There is also a Multicultural English Conversation Group (MECOG) which meets each Monday morning from 9 am until noon and, since it’s inception eighteen years ago, has been facilitated by centre volunteer Nola Pritchard. Nola and her husband moved to Bribie Island in 1975 from Gordonvale in North Queensland and prior to joining the dedicated band of volunteers at the Neighbourhood Centre, she had been involved in a course which was designed to help women who wanted to return to the workforce. ‘After holding the course at the Caboolture Learning Centre, I repeated it at Deception Bay and also on Bribie Island.
It covered all aspects associated with seeking employment and this included strengths and weaknesses, self-esteem, application letters and resumes,’ Nola explained. ‘At the Learning Centre, I also worked with groups of migrants whose English skills were in need of improvement and one couple who lived on the island asked me why there was not a similar group on Bribie. After putting forward the concept to Centre Manager Cecelia Taylor who became very interested in the idea, I founded the group in 2000,’ she told me.
Nola said that the group welcomes anyone from an overseas country who would like to improve their English, either in the area of conversation, listening, reading or writing. ‘What the group members need most is self-confidence and to feel good about themselves, resulting in them being able to use their English, even though it may be imperfect,’ said Nola. ‘We say that we have many Englishes as each member of the group adds their variation, depending on their country of origin.
These include the Philippines, Germany, Poland, Colombia and more recently, Russia,’ she said. The number of people who attend MECOG fluctuate from three up to ten and Nola pointed out that no matter how many attend, the camaraderie is always amazing. She said that the members care for each other and whilst she begins as the facilitator, before long they are teaching each other. Nola also remarked that sometimes she becomes involved in the member’s lives outside the meetings of the group.
‘If someone needs clarification of a form or perhaps needs to write an important letter, I try to help them,’ said Nola. ‘I believe that I have time for my family, for myself and for the community. MECOG is my contribution to the community. I learn as much from what I do as what I feel the other members of the group do’ she told me. When talking about the many great volunteers at the centre, Nola commented that both the staff and the volunteers have always been supportive of the group and as well as always being very welcoming, they provide assistance with tasks such as photocopying and constantly ask if anything is needed.
She told me that MECOG meets upstairs at the Neighbourhood Centre in the room adjacent to the kitchen and said that this is very convenient when morning tea time arrives. As a person who enjoys being able to help the community, Nola also helps the students at Banksia Beach School with their reading and spends her time at home pottering in the garden or doing crossword puzzles. The Bribie Island and District Neighbourhood Centre at 9 Verdoni Street in Bellara, is open each weekday except Friday from 9 am until 3 pm and without the selfless dedication of volunteers such as Nola Pritchard, would not be able to serve the community as it does.
Anyone who would like details about what the centre has to offer or perhaps about becoming a volunteer should either contact them by phone on 3408 8440 or pay the centre a visit.