Colin and Phuong Reynolds are new officers of the Salvation Army’s Sunshine Corps. They talk to Alexandra Laskie about living and working in Brimbank and what the Sunshine Corps offers.
Colin, you follow in the footsteps of your parents, who were corps officers in a number of locations in Victoria, including Chelsea, Clayton and Brunswick, and you work alongside your wife, Phuong, at Sunshine. Can you tell us about how you met and what it’s like working alongside each other?
Colin: I met Phuong in 1996 when I was travelling around Asia as a tourist. I met her in her home town of Hoi An; she could speak a bit of English, so that helped a lot. I was doing a big travel thing and Vietnam was about one third of the way through the trip. But after meeting Phuong, I cancelled a big part of it – the Middle East and Africa – and we got married the following year.
When Phuong finally came over [to Australia] – because it took about 15 months for her visa to be finalised – we decided it would be good for her to go to a church, because we’re both Christians. We settled on the Vietnamese Evangelical Church in Footscray. After about five years, an opportunity came up to be a pastor there. We were at that church for 12 years all up.
I was appointed as the corps officer at Sunshine Salvos at the beginning of 2015 and Phuong joined me at the beginning of this year after she’d completed two years of training. We felt that working together would allow us to contribute more holistically to Sunshine.
What does your role involve?
Colin: Our primary role is to act as the ministers of the Salvation Army church. On Sundays, we have a morning worship service; on Fridays, we provide a free meal for anyone living in Brimbank. We use our church facility for tai chi sessions, music lessons for children, a Burmese playgroup and even fortnightly beauty and style sessions [Phuong is a qualified beautician and hairdresser], as well as conducting weddings and funerals.
Phuong: We also regularly help families with food, clothing and other basic everyday needs. People come into the church every day.
You first bought into the area 16 years ago. What is it that you love about Brimbank?
Colin: I love the fact that, generally, people are pretty accepting of each other. Brimbank accepts people for who they are, and accommodates different backgrounds and religions. I love the ‘I can go into work everyday and there’s always something happening’. I love that spontaneity, the life that’s in the area, the diversity.
Phuong: I love Brimbank because the large Vietnamese community here makes me feel close to my culture and home.
How have you seen Brimbank change since you moved into the area?
Colin: We have seen the amazing development of housing around Taylors Hill, Cairnlea, Sunshine and West Footscray. It has also been interesting to see the settlement of the Horn of Africa community in the inner west and how they have added a fresh flavour and vibrancy to Brimbank.
Phuong: I am amazed when I see the increased multiculturalism in Brimbank. Also I love the development of Sunshine Hospital and I’m so happy that the St Albans and Ginifer train stations are finally being fixed.
If you had overseas visitors to stay, where in Brimbank would you take them?
Colin: I’d take them to Organ Pipes National Park, Brimbank Park or for a walk along the main strip of Hampshire Road in Sunshine to see how diverse a community we are. I’d ask them if they wanted to try Afghani, Ethiopian or Vietnamese cuisine – the options are endless.
Phuong: I’d take them to my favourite Vietnamese restaurants in Sunshine; B&T Bakery, Pho Hien Saigon and Co Do Restaurant.
Salvation Army’s Sunshine Corps, 42 Devonshire Road, Sunshine. Phone: 9364 9335