Inspirational local resident Hoa Lam was surrounded by friends and family as she celebrated her 107th birthday at North Richmond Community Health.
Ms Lam, who turns 107 on 15 August, has been a client of North Richmond Community Health for decades.
Born in China, Ms Lam moved to Vietnam at about 30 years old. She had four children in Vietnam, with the family running a local hardware store. However, many friends and family members were forced to flee Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Ms Lam and her daughter Julie remained in Vietnam, while Ms Lam’s other children fled to Australia by boat, as refugees.
“A lot of people died at sea,” says Julie, who often acts as an interpreter for her mother.
After settling in Australia, family members who arrived via boat were able to gather the resources to fly Ms Lam and Julie to Melbourne in 1986. To migrate to Australia, the Lam family were forced to give their hardware business up to the Vietnamese government.
“We had nothing,” recalls Julie. “When we first came here, we were very sad.”
Since arriving in Australia more than 30 years ago, Ms Lam has flourished in the local community.
“She always says that if she stayed in Vietnam, she wouldn’t have lived so long, and been so healthy,” says Julie.
Ms Lam still lives independently in the Richmond Housing Estate, where she’s made many friends over the years.
“She always wants to live by herself,” says Julie, who has a home nearby. “She said she wants us to have our freedom.”
North Richmond Community Health CEO Demos Krouskos says Ms Lam has an incredible story.
“To our knowledge, she’s our most senior client,” says Mr Krouskos. “She is obviously well loved by her friends and family, and by our team at North Richmond Community Health.
“Her story is a wonderful example of the optimism and resilience you can find on this housing estate.”
That optimism, says Julie, is the key to Ms Lam’s longevity.
“Her secret is to stay happy, and keep moving,” says Julie.
Ms Lam still participates in North Richmond Community Health’s Chair-based Exercise Group. The group’s participants, along with volunteers and North Richmond Community Health’s staff, organised her birthday celebrations.
The Chair-based Exercise Group helps keep senior residents, particularly those in the Richmond Housing Estate, healthy and active. It also supports friendships in the community, as evidenced by the generous contributions of food for Ms Lam’s celebration.
Funded by the City of Yarra, the Group is one of many activities run by North Richmond Community Health which helps keep the local community healthy and happy.