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With a styled mohawk and subtle swagger, Yitian is not your stereotypical aged care volunteer.

In 2017, Yitian (30) moved from Beijing to Adelaide to study social work at Flinders University and gain a better understanding of aged care in Australia.

With ambitions to establish his very own aged care facility in China – an ongoing program between AnglicareSA and Flinders University enabled Yitian to complete a five-month student placement at AnglicareSA Grange aged care facility.

“The placement is a great opportunity for students to become familiar with the environment and get lived experience looking after older people,” he said.

“I think it’s a win-win situation… not only do I help them but they also teach me so much… about Australia, history and themselves.”

“I think you have to walk in other people’s shoes to understand what they need.”

Yitian with AnglicareSA Grange resident Jane.

Despite his beaming confidence and permanent smile – Yitian said he was a very different man when he and his wife first arrived in Australia two years ago.

He believes his limited English skills affected his ability to “be himself”.

“When I first came here I didn’t like speaking to people — but after I finished my placement my personality changed – I’m way more confident now.

“I’ve built good relationships and friendships with the team and also with residents – with some I share very close relationships and conversations.

“The best thing is when I’m able to help the residents achieve something… for example when residents ask me ‘could you help me to water my plants?’ – I say ‘okay no problem’.”

After completing his placement, Yitian has balanced his final year study commitments with continuing as a volunteer at AnglicareSA.

He hopes to pursue more employment or volunteer opportunities in Australia before returning to China.

“I want to positively change people’s attitudes towards older people in China,” he said.

“I always ask myself questions like ‘what sort of services would I like when I get older?’

“For me – I want to feel useful. I think some elderly people feel helpless… but I want someone to encourage me when I get older and return my dignity.”

Yitian is on a mission to support our older population lead healthy and happy lives.

Yitian believes student placements and volunteer opportunities are the ultimate opportunity for younger generations to engage with older people and learn more about what it means to care for one another.

“Sometimes I think about how many elderly people dedicated their life to the development of Australia… so now it’s the time for the younger generations to give back.”

Interested in finding out more about volunteering? Check out our current volunteer opportunities.