Peter’s Story – Mercy Connect Volunteer

“Volunteering is a two-way process. It is not all one way.
How do you explain joy? I feel happy afterwards.”

Peter is a Mercy Connect volunteer supporting adult refugee and asylum seekers to learn English one morning a week at Dandenong Library in Melbourne, Victoria.

“I am 80 years old, so I have been retired for quite a while. I work with adults who want to improve their English skills. I often help host the morning by welcoming people as they come in the door and allocating them to a tutor. There are resource materials that we get out of the cupboard and put away again and we provide the biscuits for a cup of coffee. It all runs itself pretty well.

Mostly, I tutor one adult at a time. Sometimes there are a couple of people at the table. The Afghan people are very motivated and have the most need. They want to be able to get a driver’s licence or perhaps prepare for citizenship or manage in society.

I call it “Survival English”, so you first have to find out where a person is starting from. I am not trying to teach them to pass an exam. I am trying to teach them to survive. I try to choose a theme that is relevant and necessary. The aim is to help them settle into a new country, a new culture and survive in it and enjoy it. And try to get over whatever traumas they have had before.

We may, for example, go over the topic of visiting a doctor. Talk with the doctor, get the prescription, and take it to the chemist. Then you read the pill packet. I have even taken along my packets. What does “Take two tablets twice a day” mean?

And then there are scenarios like the market. How much do things cost? What are all the vegetable names? What are they saying when it is three for two dollars?

One adult learner was not numerate. He cannot do arithmetic. He had never been to school. So, you are starting at a different point with him. He can count coins. But if you say, “You worked 9 hours at $15 per hour, here is $100”, he does not even know that he is being cheated.

One time I was talking with Ab Khaleq about bushfire risk in Australia and I asked him if they have similar bushfires in Afghanistan. He said no but they have guns and bombs. He knows what hazards and risks are, but they are a little bit different in Afghanistan.

Today we spent time talking about the way you address people. We were working through the cultural nuances of meeting people and saying hello. There is body language as well as language.

In Australia, we shake hands and look someone in the eye. ‘Hello, I am pleased to meet you.’ If you do not look at them it sends a bad signal. Ab Khaleq said that, in Afghanistan, he would never look directly at someone like me, older than him, when we greet each other. That would be rude.”

What is your favourite part about volunteering with Mercy Connect?

I suppose the friendship, the camaraderie with the other tutors and adult students who clearly appreciate what it is being done for them. What I most enjoy is the good feeling I get out of it. Not in an – “Aren’t I good?” – sense, but just feeling happy. I come home happy because it has been a good day. Joyful, I suppose is the word.

What advice would you give to others interested in volunteering?

There are so many opportunities. You should find the one that you really like. If you don’t like it then your heart is probably not in it. Perhaps do something else. I think you can burn out too. I just do one day a week with Mercy Connect and one day per month with St Vincent de Paul Society as a soup van volunteer. My recommendation would be to go at a pace that you can manage without getting exhausted.

What advice would you give to others interested in volunteering for Mercy Connect at the Dandenong Library?

Come along and have a look. You will find it is a convivial, supportive atmosphere. You will enjoy it immensely and you will feel you have done something useful. We are generously hosted and much appreciated by the library. They give us space. It is a brilliant library.

 

 

 

 

Rochelle’s Story – Mercy Connect Volunteer

“You don’t volunteer to be appreciated. But I do feel appreciated.
I feel rewarded through the interactions with the kids.
They provide the reward.”

Rochelle volunteers with Mercy Work’s Mercy Connect program. For three hours per week, during school term, she provides academic support and mentorship to refugee students at a primary school in Perth, Western Australia.

“I decided to start volunteering after I had completed my fulltime paid working career. I didn’t know what it was I wanted to do. So I went onto the Seek website. I thought I would like to do something with kids. I really like kids and I have a daughter who is now 21 and doesn’t need as much attention. So I saw the opportunity with Mercy Works and I thought if you can help kids with their language and their education skills early that is something that can set them up for life. So I applied.

I volunteer for half a day on a Wednesday in the morning. I work predominantly one-on-one with the kids. The first half of the morning is with the Year 5 and 6 kids. The second half of the morning is with the Year 4 kids. Sometimes, I work with small groups of up to about three kids at a time. But more often than not it is individual. We typically work on reading fluency and comprehension.

I work with many Bhutanese kids. They are just gorgeous. There are also kids from Sri Lanka, and a girl from Vietnam.”

How has the program benefited the students?

“I have seen their confidence grow. You can definitely see the improvement they get through the additional practice. You also form a bit of a friendship with them and can be a little bit of a mentor. You get to know the kids and what interests them. Sometimes you talk about other things. We always get through the work but we also have a bit of fun as well.

Now that I have been at [the same school] for three years, some of the kids know me and will tell the other kids, oh yeh she is really good. So that has made it a little bit easier. The kids are a little bit more open and not as reserved. That’s the benefit if you can stay at  the same school and in the same year groups.

I have had some of my students for two years. And that is really nice as well because again you get to know them and you get to see how they grow in confidence. Its about their confidence in their reading and doing their school work. The kids really enjoy having the time together. That’s where you get the most out of them.

What was it like on your first day?

Like anyone, I didn’t know what the school environment would be like. I didn’t know what the requirements would be. So of course you are a little bit nervous going in.

What I appreciate is the teachers are really busy and they are trying to provide this extra opportunity on top of a very busy work load. So I kind of make sure I hang to the back and wait until they have the space to instruct me on what they want. I think that has worked really well.

What is the most rewarding part about volunteering?

Definitely the kids. The different personalities of the kids. Learning about their backgrounds. Just seeing how they approach learning. I find that interesting too. You’ve got to try different styles with the kids.

What I like is they seem to be enjoying the time we spend together learning. I get as much out of it as they get out of it. I can see that I am doing a little bit that just helps them with something that we all need. You’ve got to be able to read and comprehend.

Each kid is just so individual.

What advice would you have for others interested in volunteering?

You have to give it a bit of time to settle into the role. It is important to understand that the teachers are busy. Go with the flow. I look at it as we are there to assist.

A benefit of the Mercy Connect program is the cultural awareness training. I attended both sessions and thought it was fabulous. I got so much out of it. I would encourage people to do it.

Cultural awareness is very important when you are working with refugees. Understanding different styles of communication.

Any last words on voluntering?

I would happily recommend volunteering for the Mercy Connect program. I get way more out of it than I put in. I didn’t go in expecting to receive anything.

You don’t go into volunteering wanting something back. You go in wanting to give something. I’ve got the time now in my life to volunteer. I want to make a contribution to my community.

Look for something that interests you. Then ask youself is it working for you? If you enjoy what you do then you are going to give even more to it. If it doesn’t fit then look for something else that does work.

I have been very lucky.

Pat’s Story – MPower Mentor Volunteer

“Volunteering will change you for the better.
You will grow as a person and you will find purpose as well.”

Pat volunteer’s for MPower, Mercy Work’s transformative mentorship program for young Sudanese men and women, forging pathways to tertiary education and meaningful employment. Pat mentors a university student whose family immigrated to Australia as refugees from Sudan.

“I moved to Australia from the USA over 35 years ago. My wife and I raised three daughters all now in their 20’s. For the past two decades I have volunteered, mainly coaching kid’s basketball and teaching kindness at public schools.”

 

How did you first get involved with MPower?

Two years ago, I met Sr Maria Sullivan [a Sister of St Joseph who started MPower in 2017]. She is a real dynamo, a unique individual. I attended a presentation by her to Sudanese students and parents living in Western Sydney. She told the students how they need to acquire skills. They need to go to either TAFE or university. They can’t just be factory workers because AI and robots will replace those jobs in ten years.

Just hearing her speak was so motivating and got me involved in MPower.

Can you share some of your experiences as a volunteer mentor?

I met with Raul [Pat’s assigned mentee] and he seemed keen and interested. He is at university studying film and communication. He wants to get into movies, and I don’t have any experience in the movie or filmmaking world. He is incredibly passionate about it. I said, you know, if that’s your dream follow your dream. Don’t give up on it.

So, what we did was I went through my LinkedIn contacts looking for people I know in the movie space. We met for coffee with someone from Channel 9 who owns a media company.

Raul asked, “what are we going to talk about?” I said, I’ve got no idea. We will just meet and have a coffee with that person and the conversation will develop. Just tell him your story. Say you are looking to get into the film world. You are looking for contacts and people that can help you and that’s why I’m sitting here with you now. Just see what the person says.

Inevitably a person tries to help you out. One hundred percent! Every single person we’ve had a coffee with they have tried to help Raul. They say, well I can do this or that for you and they follow through.

We met another guy here in Sydney who is a filmmaker. Raul started working for him on his movie for about six weeks. Raul was a roustabout. If someone needed a coffee, he got a coffee. He was on the set working with the actors and everyone.

What do you enjoy about being a volunteer mentor?

I get a lot of fulfilment from helping Rual. His first day working on a movie. Getting his first paycheck from the movie. It’s very rewarding to see someone else’s success.  Just like your own kid. You love seeing anyone succeed but it’s even more pleasurable to think that you may have played a small role in helping them get there.”

 

 

Empowering Futures: The MPower Mentorship Program

In the vibrant heart of Western Sydney, a transformative mentorship program is quietly shaping the destinies of young Sudanese men and women. The program, formerly known as the Josephite Refugee Mentor Support Program (JRMSP), now proudly bears the name “MPower.

MPower serves as an inspiring framework for mentors and mentees, forging pathways to tertiary education and meaningful employment. Born out of the profound realisation that many young Sudanese were facing daunting challenges after leaving school, the program embodies the Sudanese community’s resolve to create a brighter future for their youth.

In the past, many young Sudanese found themselves at home, jobless, lacking government welfare, and dependent on their parents for financial support. Some had legal issues, others were trapped in unhealthy relationships, and young single mothers were navigating the complexities of parenthood. Often, parents lost touch with their children, with young grandmothers stepping in as caregivers.

Sister Maria Sullivan, a sister of St Joseph, has been a steadfast companion to the Sudanese since their arrival in Australia in 1998, and lived in Mapuordit, South Sudan, for twelve months in 2006. She says that her involvement began with a request for help from the South Sudanese community “because so many of their young people were doing well in school – but when they left school, they would fall off the bridge.”

Deacon John Cinya, Chaplain to the Sudanese community, recognised the need for assistance. In 2017, he turned to Sr Maria and a visionary collaboration was forged as the JRMSP initiative began to take shape. Since that time, a core group of mentees from the original program formed a leadership team and by early 2020, in collaboration with this team of young leaders, it was decided that a website should be established and a new name “MPower” was chosen.

In August 2023, Mercy Connect NSW, as part of Mercy Works, joined forces with Sister Maria and is excited to take on full custodianship of the MPower program from April 2024. Paul Taylor, Mercy Connect NSW Project Coordinator, says

“MPower isn’t just a mentorship program;
it’s a life-sustaining support for young Sudanese people in Western Sydney.

It acknowledges the unique challenges they face and sets out to equip them and their families to transition successfully from school to higher education or meaningful employment.”

Mercy Works is currently evaluating applications for a new wave of mentors to join MPower. Mentees often need guidance to understand and value their rich cultural heritage, fostering pride and leadership within their community. To create a meaningful relationship, mentors are advised to engage with mentees’ families and familiarise themselves with the unique background of their students, including a basic understanding of Sudanese history and geography. This knowledge helps them to recognise the significant differences in the school journey of Sudanese youth compared to those whose parents can read, write, and speak English.

A significant hallmark of this endeavour is its approach of respect and a non-judgment towards cultural differences, to understand the position in which mentees often find themselves—caught between two cultures, two languages, and two sets of social norms. There is a true appreciation of the hardships that some mentees have experienced as child refugees, including separation from family, torture, trauma, language barriers, racism, discrimination, and possible post-traumatic stress.

In addition, some parents may be undergoing further trauma related to the ongoing situation in South Sudan, such as poverty, hunger, tribal conflicts, illness, and pressure to send money home. Many parents may have received little or no education, resulting in a limited understanding of tertiary studies and the demands of higher education.

Despite the challenges, MPower’s goal is to empower every Sudanese student who completes Year 12, inviting applications through School Counsellors. It’s an inclusive program, welcoming young people from all religious backgrounds and distinguished by its commitment to involving parents, especially mothers.

Research indicates that, after completing formal education, young people tend to fall into three distinct and discernible groups.

Some students wish to proceed to University or TAFE pathways and often require facilitation with course selection, enrolling, and managing their time between work and study.

Others choose to pursue a TAFE course or apprenticeship and may require more support in determining their career path without an ATAR.

Lastly, some students decide on the option of immediate full-time employment and may need help in understanding the concept of career progression and job security.

MPower’s focus in 2024 will be on those wishing to undertake tertiary education where the program has proven to be successfully instrumental in providing crucial assistance to mentees and their families in the shift from a structured school environment to self-directed learning.

Mentees are assisted to develop specific skills and knowledge including access to services and resources needed to achieve independence, confidence, and success. This covers help with challenges such as navigating an application, a car insurance claim, connection with part-time employment opportunities and financial support for various educational materials, travel expenses, and internet access.

Mentor Tess Mulveney expounds

“The one-on-one mentoring provides young people with practical and meaningful support during the crucial stage between finishing school and stepping into life as an independent adult. 

That might be helping a young person to fill out the complex enrolment forms for university — so they’re not shut out because of administration barriers.”

Throughout the journey, both mentors and mentees are motivated to be open to new experiences and personal growth, forging connections that help to create trust and friendship. Exploring new art, music, culture, or sports together, also provides opportunities to share knowledge back within their own communities, bridging the cultural divide.

Adau, a former mentee, is grateful that her mentors “have continued to support me and all my endeavours.

They have changed my life and future for the better!”

Mercy Works is proud to promote The MPower program, to foster a sense of self-determination and independence among young Sudanese, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and to become role models for the following generations. Through mentorship, MPower is lighting the path to more optimistic, more promising futures.

 

This article was first published by Mercy Works in the Bilum, December 2023.

 

 

 

Tax Appeal Thank You!

Mercy Works would like to say a big thank you for the overwhelming support we received for our June 2023 Tax Appeal – Economic Empowerment in PNG.

Your generous donations well exceeded our target of $10,000 for this project, reaching a wonderful $19,160.

This money will go to our Simbu Project in PNG where our microfinancing initiative, the Leave No One Behind Village and Life Savings Association (LNB – VSLA) is creating economic empowerment and improving the lives of the people of Simbu.

Essentially, the entrepreneurial capacity of individuals, families and communities is enhanced by promoting a saving culture and increasing access to credit to enable them to embark on income generating activities to sustain and improve their livelihoods. It is a collaborative effort taken by the local community towards financial freedom.

Sr Maryanne Kolkia RSM, who heads up the initiative, says she is incredibly grateful for the support.

“The Leave No One Behind Village Savings and Loans Association is inspiring and exciting,” says Sr Maryanne. “Every month, more requests are coming from people of all walks of life. The impact of their stories is spreading like wildfire.

“Our sincere word of gratitude and deep appreciation for your generosity. Without your support, our financial journey towards Economic Freedom and Empowerment would not be possible. Your reaching out is our strength and motivation.  Thanks for being part of own our journey in generating an income through the LNB- VSLA.”

WATCH NOW! Learn More about our Economic Empowerment initiative in PNG here:

From Little Things Big Things Grow

Our Nunga Babies Watch Project (NBW) in Adelaide continues to advocate and work together with Aboriginal people to ensure their voice is heard and their Rights are respected when interacting with the Department for Child Protection in South Australia.

There have been small progresses forward, including the February delivery of Auntie Pat’s speech in South Australian Parliament House by local member Connie Banaros, the NBW team working with the University of SA to bring Social Work students to Tauondi Aboriginal College in Port Adelaide to do a more intensive cultural awareness program and the Aboriginal Voice to SA Parliament Bill  being passed at a special sitting on March 26th.

The Aboriginal Voice to SA Parliament Bill was passed at a special sitting on March 26th

However, there is still much to be done. The NBW July update highlights the glaring inconsistency between what the Department for Child Protection (DCP) say they will do as opposed to what they actually do when interacting with Aboriginal families.

Among the list of common complains about the Department for Child Protection (DCP) in SA are, what NBW calls, “Opportunistic behaviour by DCP”. The report states that “informing a family member of DCP plans to take a child before the required process of Child Safeguarding Due Diligence and or the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) is (not?) meaningfully accounted for. [There is] No substantive involvement of family, Aboriginal practitioner support person and or sharing of necessary information will create the opportunity for this type of behaviour.”

“The DCP appearing to do whatever they want, when they want with no accountability… No evidence is forthcoming to show active efforts have been genuinely and actively used, to achieve the priority of placing a child in kinship care.”

“And no translator or Aboriginal practitioner present – not knowing what is being signed, not wanting to say anything, for fear of saying the wrong thing….resulting in trauma of not understanding why a child is taken. DCP repeatedly do not have Aboriginal practitioners  or support person present.”

NBW, supported by Mercy Works, exists to support Aboriginal families Voice when interacting with DCP. “If Aboriginal Voices aren’t heard, engaged with or encouraged, or silenced, and due diligence applied to the process, an opportunistic behaviour by DCP becomes evident. With no accountability, there seems a rushed pre-determined agenda toward long term ‘orders.’,” say the group.

A recent Summary Statement of Investigation by the Ombudsman SA, highlights DCP issues in response to complaints. NBW describes this as “another example as a culture of mis-guided use, or non-compliance of social work practice and statutory obligations.”

Auntie Pat heads up our Nunga Babies Watch Project in SA

One summary statement included in this report https://www.ombudsman.sa.gov.au/publications/investigation-reports/2023-investigation-decisions stated: “While not legislatively incorrect, the department’s actions and omissions created a risk of the child being disconnected from family and culture long term, contrary to the intended outcomes of the ATSICPP (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle). This matter highlights the risks associated with superficial compliance with the ATSICPP.”

The Ombudsman also concluded that the department erred in its handling of the complaint, and incorrectly applied its complaint handling policy, which resulted in the  client being denied the right to an internal review of the department’s placement decisions.

The Ombudsman has made four recommendations to address some of the issues identified, which the department accepted.

Mercy Works is proud to continue to support this important project to stop “another stolen generation” from occurring in South Australia.

Classroom Connections with Mercy Connect

Ukrainian student Khrystyna, 6, loves kangaroos and the library in her new school, but misses her cat, Jessie. Her friend, Daneliia, 6, misses her old Kindergarten class back home, but loves the Opera House and the beaches in Australia.

Both girls have been in Australia for a year after having to leave their homeland in the Ukraine, due to the war. They are now happily settling into their new classroom at St Joachim’s Catholic Primary School in Lidcombe.

Sr Flo enjoys reading with Kindy Gold every Wednesday Photo: Nikki Short

Khrystyna and Daneliia are part of the Mercy Connect Refugee, Asylum seekers and Humanitarian background program, which has been operating in schools since 2008, to assist school students, groups of adults and their families from refugee backgrounds adjust to life in Australia.

We recruit, train and support 128 volunteer mentors supporting 968 students in 68 schools in Western Australia, Victoria and NSW as well as five adult classes.

For students who are refugees and those seeking asylum, adjusting to a whole new life in Australia presents many challenges. Many of them arrive in Australia after having experienced lengthy periods of dislocation, grief and trauma.

Two of our trained MC volunteers, Sr Flo Snell and Jan Finkelstein, have been working in classrooms every Wednesday for seven years at St Joachim’s, to help with students who need extra support.

“We’ve been fortunate and lucky enough to have Mercy Connect work in our school and have two wonderful educators who come and work with us in our kindergarten room,” says Maria Maiorana, Principal at St Joachim’s.

Miss Jan connects with students in Kindy Gold Photo: Nikki Short

“They’re both volunteers, but we’ve just been so grateful to have two experience educators who are willing to come and share their knowledge and expertise with our teachers and students. They are so loved in the school, the children absolutely adore them, and they are constantly asking when is Miss Flo coming? When is Miss Jan coming? Is today their day?

Maria says Lidcombe is in a prime position to accept students from The Ukraine because they are so close to the Ukrainian Church which is only a few doors down from the school.

“Because of that community we have been very fortunate to have some Ukrainian students come to join our school community, and some of those little ones are also in our kindy room and they have also had the benefit of being involved with Mercy Connect. Just being in community everyone feels they belong to one community. So we have children from Ukraine, from China, from Korea, India, the Philippines – so when you come to St Joachim’s everyone belongs. We all come from different parts of the world, but we all share the same values we hold the same things important and that’s what makes our school super special.”

The Mercy Connect volunteers help with many different aspects of curriculum in the classroom. They work with literacy curriculum, listening to students read, helping them with their writing sometimes with numeracy and other aspects of their work.

“But the most important aspect is the way they connect with the student and that special sense of care that’s offered that everybody belongs, and the world is made up of so many different people and here in our classroom we can accept and see the giftedness that everybody has. It’s good for the students to see we have the youngest students and we’ve got the older members of society together all working for the same thing,” says Maria.

Kindergarten teacher Jacqueline Doherty says she really couldn’t do it without our Mercy Connect mentors!

“Some of the kids who struggled at the beginning [with their English] have really made massive improvements that they’ve been more verbal in the way they speak to others, and they want to do more to help me and themselves in the classroom. Miss Flo and I working as a team to set these kids for life so they can go out into the world and be awesome,” she says.

“Having someone like Miss Flo side by side with the students builds confidence, self-esteem, well being and social skills. Miss Flo has given kindergarten the need for connection with adults and it presents a picture of how older adults can contribute we just love her. She’s amazing. I have appreciated every minute she has spent in the class with us. And what can I say? I appreciate it. She really enhances the vibe in the classroom.”

Sr Flo became a volunteer with Mercy Connect because she was looking for something more to do.

“The children themselves are a breath of fresh air but I’ve got to say this there’s a lot of tragedy in the world today and drama and things they drag us down. But I come in here and this just gives me life. I actually absolutely love it….I go home exhausted but it’s a refreshing kind of exhaustion!

Principal Maria Maiorana reads with students at Sr Joachim’s Primary School Picture: Nikki Short

Principal Maria says she can’t praise her experience with Mercy Connect enough.

“Anyone who would be lucky enough to have Mercy Connect come and work with them can expect only wonderful things out of an association with them. They bring not only support into the classroom, but they bring that sense of human connectedness that everyone strives to have in their school, so I could only highly praise the experience I’ve had with Mercy Connect and only offer my words of acknowledgment for what they’ve done and how they have assisted our school and our students.”

Mercy Connect welcomes your school to join our program. Or if you would like to volunteer with our Mercy Connect Program click on the link below

 

WATCH NOW! Mercy Connect at St Joachim’s Primary School 

All Time High at Hilltop High!

Our Hilltop Road Adult Literacy Class reached an all-time high in May as they embarked on their first excursion.

The adult literacy learners are from the Hilltop Road Community Centre in Sydney, run by Catherine Gregory, The Community Liaison Officer at Hilltop Road Public School, where Mercy Connect provides volunteers to support students from refugee and asylum seeker background.

The Adult Literacy Classes empower their parents to learn English so they can help their children in their school and adapt to their new life in Australia.

“Well, I can truly say, Monday’s excursion was the highlight of my 17 years here at Hilltop Road!” says Catherine.

“Sherry (a Mercy Connect volunteer) opened her house to the Mums, and they didn’t want to leave!”

For most of our adult literacy learners, it was the first time they had been invited to an Aussie’s house or a house outside their own family. 

The smiles and chatter over lunch say it all! 

Best Foot Forward

Nothing makes Esther* happier than making clothes for others.

The 32-year-old asylum seeker from Papua New Guinea is a participant in Mercy Works partnership with the Romero Centre – Gateways To Employment for People Seeking Asylum – in Brisbane, which has so far helped 20 women and 17 men gain employment since last July.

There are many challenges facing people seeking asylum in Australia, including financial – which often leads to homelessness and destitution. Lack of employment also impacts on welfare, mental and physical health and children. Isolated, uncertain and frightened, it’s a complicated system to navigate.

For women like Esther, finding a job can be particularly difficult. Many come from a cultural background where paid employment for women is not widely available. And many, particularly those from PNG, are fleeing domestic violence and have sole child caring responsibilities – an additional barrier. Others have lived in detention for a prolonged period and 70% of participants have flashbacks from trauma they have experienced.

Which is why we are so proud to help women like Esther safely enter the workforce.

After approaching The Romero Centre for support last October, she was able to apply for a protection visa and was granted a bridging visa with work rights.

It was during this three-month process Esther engaged in several workshops under the Mercy Works partnership program including a workshop with Mater Hospital for Workplace Health and Covid 19 Protocols; a workshop with MCW Lawyers for Safety and Employment Rights and Obligations; Group ESL and individual tutorials and a cultural mentoring workshop as well as an excursion with her peers. She also attended a workplace group visit in a café and undertook a trial shift.

But it was not the right fit.

So, with Mercy Works support, she decided to focus on what she loves to do: Sewing!

Esther began applying for tailoring jobs, as she had some experience in that field. “Sewing clothes is my natural gift,” she says. “Nothing makes me happier than making clothes for others.”

Once her work rights arrived, she applied for five tailoring jobs and was invited to two job interviews, ultimately receiving a job offer as a commercial tailor.

“With her skills, passion and help of Romero Centre staff, she started her dream job not even three weeks from the day she was granted work permission to work in Australia!” says Misha Emingerova, a case worker at Romero.

With a regular income, Esther will now be able to continue her settlement in Australia and support her family back home financially.

“She is now onto her next step – obtaining a Queensland drivers licence!” says Misha proudly.

This empowering project is seeing fantastic results. It supports asylum seekers from over 40 cultural groups, with a particular focus on women, to gain work experience and employment and to address the barriers they face from a lack of English language skills, resources and networks. Pathways to employment are strengthened by linking participants to real-world employers within our Mercy Partners and business association networks.