In a small room, just large enough to set up three Ping-Pong tables, over 20 people fill the space with positive energy in a rustic building in downtown Victoria. The players, who belong to the Victoria Chinese Seniors’ Association (VCSA) located in the Victoria Silver Threads Centre, socialize through healthy and challenging games of table tennis.
“As soon as you touch the paddle, you win because your confidence grows as well as your happiness,” says Shaohu Xu, a member of the VCSA Board and head of the Table Tennis Project. “So many individuals enjoy playing for fun and not for the competitive reasons. They want to make friends. This event allows seniors to break the isolation of the Chinese senior citizens and allows them to make friendships with people outside of their culture. The Chinese Association applies the principle of including others from different communities in the organization.”
The event was the Greater Victoria Seniors Table Tennis Tournament, held on November 16th. The Project set the following goals: facilitate and teach skill development through playing Ping-Pong; increase socialization and interactions among seniors; teach seniors how to organize and run recreational activities, including a tournament; provide the infrastructure to keep seniors fit, active and involved in the sport; and encourage seniors to create and build cross-cultural friendships with the non-Chinese community.
With funds obtained from a Federal New Horizons Program grant, a new Ping-Pong table and equipment was purchased and a local expert player hired to help seniors learn technique and develop their skills. A pilot project began in mid-March to determine interest and assess ability of the players.
The volunteer Steering Committee invited seniors from Monterey, Saanich, Juan de Fuca James Bay New Horizons and Fairfield Seniors to join.
“This is part of the fabric of Victoria,” says Donna Humphries, a Public Relations Volunteer for the VCSA. “Organizing to help others is an important community activity.”
“One lady who took up Ping-Pong,” says Shaohu, “never went to school, but she learned Chinese writing and was encouraged to stay with the ESL class, offered through the Chinese Association. Now that she plays table tennis, she makes progress with her English and participates in the dancing program. Her confidence has increased and people see her in a positive light.”
Duke Chu is the President of the VCSA. “Our group is growing larger and larger. We teach people language skills, such as key phrases that help them get directions, make doctor’s appointments, and other basic communication skills that any Canadian would know,” says Duke. “We help newcomers and teach them about Canadian society and encourage them to get out and play mahjong and cook Chinese delicacies. Organizing the Ping-Pong tournament was one way to increase awareness of our organization.”
In the Chinese community, some people feel lonely and isolated in their new city. Joining an organization that combines fun activities with meeting new people helps them feel as though they are part of the larger community.
“We even participated in the fall Moon Cake Festival, and we created a production line for making dumplings,” says Peter Hsu, a member of the board. “It was so exciting because we were singing and entertaining each other. Our members are healthy, more active and enjoy their life a lot more than inactive seniors. We even participate in ballroom dancing.”
The Ping-Pong tournament serves to integrate Chinese people into Canadian culture by reaching out and inviting Canadian senior centres to participate. Regular Ping-Pong sessions will continue throughout the winter. Everyone is welcome. For more information, contact the Victoria Silver Threads.
History of Ping-Pong
Like many other sports, table tennis began as a mild social diversion. It was popular in England in the second half of the 19th century under its current name and various trade names such as Gossima and Wiff-Waff. After the name Ping-Pong (an imitation of the sound made by the ball striking the table and the vellum bats that were used) was introduced by J. Jaques & Son, the game became a fashionable craze.
The game was popular in Central Europe in 1905-10, and before this, a modified version was introduced to Japan and later spread to China and Korea. It dropped out of fashion in Europe, but was revived in England and Wales in the early 1920s. By that time, Ping-Pong was a registered trademark, so the earlier name of table tennis was re-introduced. National associations were formed and standardized rules began, both in Europe and the Far East. Over the next 60 years, table tennis has developed into a faster and more demanding game. It is now a major worldwide sport, played by nearly 30 million competitive players and millions more who play less seriously. In 1988, table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport in Seoul, South Korea.
JANUARY 2010 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND
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