A happy place

Mei Profile Resized

Mei (pronounced “May”) is a Chinese elder and community leader who has spent the past 17 years helping local Chinese seniors combat social isolation. Mei moved to Melbourne with her husband, Shusheng, in the 90s and has lived on the Kensington estate for 20 years, back when there were only three buildings on the site. 

Mei was the President of the Kensington Chinese Friendship Association until her retirement in 2018, organising and running weekly activities at the community hub on the Kensington Estate for over 100 senior Chinese residents. Mei’s tireless work for her local community saw her receive a Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence in 2018.   

The Kensington Chinese Friendship Association was established in 2007 with Mei at the forefront due to community need and continues to bring together members of the local Chinese public housing community for social activities on a weekly basis. Mei is still heavily involved in running the group, opening the community hub every Monday and Thursday morning, and checking in on other members to make sure they are well and to see if they need any assistance to attend.   

Mahjong is a favourite activity of the group and games are played twice a week between members. There is also a group exercise session every fortnight which helps keep members active. Pre-pandemic, the Association organised a walking group that made use of the local park, a singing group that performed at local events for many years, and on Thursdays, members met up to play Chinese softball. Mei explains that the average age of the group is now 82, and members are just as happy to have regular meet ups to play Mahjong and socialise in the community hub.  

Speaking via a translator, Mei says the highlight of her involvement in the group is knowing that she has contributed to other group members’ happiness. 

“They have less chance to be left out of the community, and less chance to have depression. I feel very happy to devote the time and energy to make more people included.” 

Mei explains that group members tell her they are very happy to live in the area due to the social nature of the group and that the name Kensington is very special.  

“In English this area is called Kensington but it sounds similar to the Chinese word 開心, or Kāixīn [pronounced kye – sing], which means happy, so everybody in the group is telling others ‘we are living in a happy area’.” 

Mei says this makes her feel very proud. 

Mei and her husband also help other Chinese residents in their building with organising maintenance for their units and assisting with issues such as lost keys, helping them to overcome the language barrier when speaking to Unison staff. 

One of Mei’s proudest achievements was working with Unison to have a satellite dish installed on her building so that the elderly Chinese residents could watch television in their own language to combat boredom and feel connected to home. She oversaw the technician attending the units to make sure the connections were working and still helps residents to troubleshoot if there are any issues. 

At the end of the day, Mei says the most important thing in life is the happiness she gets from serving others and making them happy. She thanks the various organisations that have helped her achieve this over the years. 

“I am very grateful to the Australian Government, Melbourne City Council, Victorian Multicultural Commission, Unison, cohealth and Kensington Neighbourhood House who have helped me for the past 17 years to help the Chinese community." 

“I feel very lucky and very happy.” 

Share this article