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Stories of life abound

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Joshua Wan, with one of his favourite residents, Pat, has won an international award for his book on living with the elderly as part of the Scalabrini community. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Joshua Wan, with one of his favourite residents, Pat, has won an international award for his book on living with the elderly as part of the Scalabrini community. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Bridging the gap between the young and young at heart has seen Joshua Wan named the NSW International Student of the Year.

The 22-year-old from Hong Kong has been recognised for his volunteer work as part of the Gold Soul Companionship Program run by Scalabrini Village aged care facility.

Living in the Bexley nursing home free of charge while volunteering 30 hours a month with the residents, he has made strong friendships and gained rare insights into the life of the aged.

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Drawing on his physiotherapy degree, he also runs exercise classes for the residents, who in return offer him advice on everything from fashion to dating.

The young student has found his time at the nursing home so rewarding, he has launched an initiative called Grannytell, which he hopes will connect the two generations using storytelling and art.

Students can submit questions online about the experiences of older people and Joshua publishes their responses anonymously on social media.

Inspired by an 80-year-old resident called Pat, he said the young have much to learn from the elderly.

“Everyone has a story to tell and if you listen closely enough, you will be surprised at what you learn.”

“When I first met Pat, I was amazed by the fact that she was studying a diploma (then a degree!) through the University of Tasmania,” he said.

“Her curiosity amazed me in its expansiveness, from a desire to learn her family history, to enquiring about the plate number of the car parked outside (to be fair, it was a nice car).

“She is always doing something, be it on her laptop fixing up birthday cards or trying out snapchat filters on her phone.

“Her advice to others is, ‘You get what you put into it’.

“As a health professional student, I spend most of my days learning about how patients present with certain diseases, but this unique experience has enabled me to realise that a person is not defined by their signs and symptoms.

“Everyone has a story to tell and if you listen closely enough, you will be surprised at what you learn.”

The NSW International Student of the Year Awards celebrates the achievements and contributions of international students across the state, with finalists hailing from countries including China, India, Laos, Brazil and Myanmar.

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