Meet the Int’l Student Siblings Volunteering at Melbourne Town Hall

International students Sean and Wendy volunteer at Melbourne Town Hall Vaccination Clinic

Once or twice a week, Sean (Shavhin Ahn) and Wendy (Yehvhin Ahn) make their way to the Melbourne Town Hall vaccination clinic. Here, the two help non-English speakers translate vital COVID-19 inoculation information, bridging communication between nurses and patients. 

The brother and sister duo were inspired to help when they were waiting for their first jab in early September and saw an elderly person struggling to talk to the practitioner inside.

“I saw them using Google Translate trying to talk, so I asked if he [the patient] spoke Mandarin or Korean,” Sean said. 

Afterwards, the siblings spoke to Brieneka, the head nurse of the cohealth team that manages the vaccination clinic, to enquire if the team needed help with translating, and offering to come back and assist the week after. 

They are now part of the larger group of individuals that support Victoria’s vaccination program leading the way out of lockdown. 

Sean in front of Melbourne Town Hall. Source: Jason Hendriks

The duo, who are fluent in Mandarin, Korean and English, stay from 10 pm to 12 am in the clinic. And sometimes until 1 pm if the clinic stays busy. 

Most of the time, they’re helping elderly people who need information. 

“[We usually help with] common questions like ‘What’s the usual reaction?’, ‘Side effects?’ and ‘Which vaccine should I get?’. Because they might have a heart condition or other health concern, and don’t know how to say it in English or understand what’s being said,” Sean elaborated. 

Wendy mentioned there were a lot of medical terms they both had to learn so they could translate better, but this only made them learn further and gain more knowledge. 

She revealed her motivation to help was her mother. 

“She also was unsure about which vaccine to get, so [the people we assist] remind me of her. That’s why I want to help,” she said. 

The siblings came to Melbourne in 2016 and continued pursuing their studies amidst lockdown. 

Sean (left) and Wendy (right). Source: Cohealth

Getting jabbed to come out of lockdown

Sean is currently studying cookery and is working as a chef at a Korean restaurant in Glen Waverley. Wendy is in her first year of studying international relations, hoping to work in the public sector. Her time at the clinic has proved to be helpful for her studies as well. 

The pandemic has been hard on the two students, who miss having a normal school life and wish to visit their family in Korea.

Hence, this is the main drive for them getting vaccinated. Sean is fully vaccinated while Wendy is currently waiting for her second jab. 

“My second reason would be so everyone can come out by the end of the year, and the lockdown can be over,” Sean said. 

“I just want my friends and family to be safe, and I want to carry my MacBook in one hand and my Starbucks cup in another while walking to uni,” Wendy laughed. 

They also encourage fellow international students to get the jab, in order to get closer to having a normal university life.

“If there’s [people] like my sister or me [volunteering], maybe that will help more international students to come and get vaccinated. If they have questions, they can just come in and ask us,” Sean said.

“And if there are more people like me who can speak multiple languages, I encourage them to volunteer as well, as it’d be a very good thing,” he added. 

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