With the right support, refugees can make extraordinary contributions and become outstanding members of society.
You can help newly arrived refugees by volunteering to teach English, providing mentoring or training opportunities.
Sara was 13 when the war in Iraq began. Instead of spending her days at school or with friends, she and her family were forced into hiding for fear of persecution. Sara and her family were all born and raised in Iraq, but are of Palestinian heritage. This means they were stateless—with many restrictions placed on them including being unable to ever own a house or car. And that was before the war.
Once the war began in 2003, Sunni Muslims (particularly of Palestinian heritage) like Sara’s family, were in danger. Sara’s home was sprayed with bullets, it was unsafe to go to school for months at a time, and Sara and her family were evicted from their home. In 2006, after three long years in war-torn Baghdad, Sara and her family fled to Syria where they applied and prayed for their visa to come to Australia. A year and a half later, their prayers were answered.
A Humanitarian Settlement Services provider supplied Sara’s family with basic furniture, kitchenware and toiletries. “I don’t have the words to explain how grateful we are for that support. It made me feel like this really was our new home.”
Sara was given a second-hand computer to help her complete her studies. “Having access to that computer got me through year 12 and my first years at TAFE.”
She also found the trauma counselling immensely helpful during her first year in Australia. “When I felt stressed and confused it was great to be able to turn to someone who knew my story, who I felt safe with. My counsellor helped me so much especially in the early days.”
In her first two years in Australia, Sara had learnt to speak English, completed year 12, had two jobs and was studying at TAFE.
One of Sara’s greatest joys was when she saved enough money and bought her own car.
“I used to volunteer to drive everywhere for my family, I’d drive around the neighbourhood—it was the best feeling, I never dreamed I would have my own car, especially growing up in Iraq where that just wasn’t an option.”
Sara is now studying a Bachelor of Social Work, and wants to give back to people who are on a similar journey and have experienced similar hardships. “I know how hard it is, I went through it, I lived it, and
I want to help other people feel welcome in their new home the way I was helped when my family first came to Australia.”