Alumni Q&A with Graeme Cooper
1. When did you volunteer with Jacari?
I volunteered from 1981 to 1983.
The pupils in my college were almost exclusively white, middle or upper class. They were predominately male. It was such a privileged, homogenous atmosphere, that I was glad once or twice a week to meet people of a completely different culture, but just a few miles away from my college.
I had hoped Jacari would be involved politically. I, for example, was strongly opposed to the 1981 British Nationality Act. (My opposition to it was not just because it deprived my fiancee’s relatives of the right of settlement in the UK.) Jacari, however, was then apolitical, concentrating on tutoring pupils and organising activities and excursions for them
2. Who was your pupil?
I was a tutor to an eight-year old Pakistani boy. He spoke Urdu when not at school. I taught him either at his primary school in Cowley or at his home nearby. I was fond of him, but he was difficult to teach, as he disliked reading. I had to rely on playing educational games or simply conversing with him. His sister was delightful. Some of my happiest memories of Oxford were reading with her in her home.
3. Can you tell us the most vivid memory of your time as a Jacari volunteer?
Acting in a Christmas pantomime when the children became over-excited and the party almost descended into chaos. I also remember with fondness the friendships I made attending Jacari’s Thursday lunches
4. What are you doing now?
I’ve been in Hong Kong for thirty-two years. For twenty five of them I had my own business here. I retired two years ago and have been learning Chinese at The University of Hong Kong.
5. How has being a volunteer with Jacari influenced you later in life?
I helped to organise trips and activities, which helped my self-confidence immensely. I would not be so aware of the difficulties immigrants face when coming to Hong Kong, whether they are from the Mainland or elsewhere. I still have a great interest in the history of the Indian sub- continent.