By EMMA CORNFORD
ON the surface Luxmee Bonds' and Rosie Vesper's situations seem far removed from one another.
Mrs Bonds is from Thailand, while Ms Vesper is from the Clarence Valley. Ms Vesper's first language is English, Mrs Bonds' is not.
But both ladies have suffered discrimination in the Valley, which has resulted in depression.
In an effort to bridge the gap between different cultures and foster understanding, the Grafton Community College is running a free program called 'You + Me = Us', which Ms Vesper and Mrs Bonds will both attend.
"I've enrolled because before I didn't understand why people did things. I want to learn about the Aussie culture," Mrs Bonds said.
"It is like when people say things to me and they hurt ? but people don't mean it to be like that. It is the sense of humour and so I say 'why did you say this' and then I understand that it is a joke."
Mrs Bonds said she hoped the program would help her understand why people treated her differently.
"I want to get to know people and learn about different cultures ... and I want to teach them things about mine too."
The course, funded by the Federal Government, seeks to link local people from non-Englishspeaking backgrounds with members of the local indigenous community and members of the Anglo-Celtic community to share their cultures.
It will incorporate activities such as cooking, craft, and storytelling from participants' cultures.
"It's to let them know who we are and about giving us something to learn from them as well," Ms Vesper said.
"This is about bringing people together to break down barriers and get rid of discrimination in the Valley, because we don't want it here."
The course will begin next Friday, running from 10am till 4pm. Those interested in attending can contact the Grafton Community College on 6642 7506, or simply come along to the college at 25-33 Bent Street, South Grafton.