Connecting local community

‘I have to live, not just exist’

"We are firm friends now, going to shule and Spiritgrow together."

Lynn Cai, community connector with Connect Local, and Judith Pinto.
Lynn Cai, community connector with Connect Local, and Judith Pinto.

Life can be hard when you lose your partner after many years. When you find yourself alone how do you cope? How do you reach out?

By coincidence and accident seems to be Judith Pinto’s method.

She grew up in the South African town of Alice and went to university in Pretoria. She married Ralf Pinto. “We moved to Portugal not long after, where we lived for 30 years,” Pinto said.

She became known as ‘the one who rekindled the light of Judaism in the Algarve of Portugal’. Her husband passed away 12 years ago, and she has now lived in Melbourne for almost two years. “I will be 84 this year and it took me all that time to realise that I can’t live alone anymore. I had to come to my family, my son and daughter-in-law and the two grandchildren.”

Pinto was shocked by Melbourne. “This is the first time I’ve ever come across such a culture, a way of life where nobody’s got time for anything.”

She said that even though there are 26 members of the South African Pinto family in Melbourne, she doesn’t feel like she belongs because she still has so much to learn.

Pinto then realised: “This is not going to be my life. I have to live, not just exist.” It was by sheer coincidence she found Connect Local, a free program linking over-65s to local activities and services in Glen Eira. Community connector Lynn Cai met with her over coffee one morning suggesting various programs and options that might appeal to Pinto. “Lynn has been a wonderful help. She accompanied me to various places, so I wasn’t arriving on my own.” Pinto currently enjoys attending weekly morning dancing classes.

The second coincidence occurred one morning at the class when a woman asked if she was South African due to her accent. They realised they lived in Alice when they were children. “We are firm friends now, going to shule and Spiritgrow together.”

Recently she made it to the Bentleigh Library after a fall in the street. “One of the librarians stopped the bleeding, and I made a new friend,” She now enjoys attending the knitting group and the Thursday coffee and chat session at the library.

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