As the year draws to a close we would like to acknowledge the incredible assistance we’ve had establishing the units in Bardon accommodating men seeking asylum. Presently we have 13 men who call 172 their home.
Amazing Community Support to Kick Start Us
On 22nd July the project started off with a bang with 25 eager volunteers ranging in age from 4 to 90+ turning up with sleeves rolled up with buckets and mops in hand ready to clean and prepare the units for the residents. We were amazed at the support and enthusiasm of volunteers on that day, some of whom continue to support the residents in various ways. Others continue to do odd jobs for us for which we are very grateful.
A big shout out to Gimpel Electrics who generously donated their time to tag and test all the electrical equipment in all the units. Fantastic support from Paul Gimpel and his team.
Mums 4 Refugees and many other individual volunteers and church and community groups donated linen, crockery, cutlery, cookware, towels, TVs etc to equip 15 units. This has been an amazing effort surpassing all our expectations. It is a true example of community pulling together to support the most vulnerable living in our neighbourhoods.
Our first resident moved in the next week and since then we have gradually welcomed 15 men. Starter packs of food for each unit were donated by Jennie Elston and her friends ensuring the residents were supplied with the important basics. What a lovely way to let the men know they are valued and welcomed.
Many people from nearby local communities have offered their support and it has been extremely encouraging to know the locals are enthusiastic about getting to know their new neighbours and wanting them to feel welcomed and connected.
We had a group of volunteers from Hope St Church and The Gap Uniting church Peter Rolls and Colin Peile (donations of wood to construct the beds) help establish above ground vegetable and herb gardens at the units. Our Afghani residents wowed the volunteers with one of their specialty BBQs. The gardens are flourishing so please come and help yourselves to the basil, parsley, rocket and other produce. The beans are growing and the tomatoes are flowering. The verge garden still needs some work but that will happen in time.
From a garden volunteer who had a first time experience working alongside a person seeking asylum: “Asylum seeking is personal. It’s easy to look at “refugee” as a group of people whom you don’t understand or are disconnected from but these individual deserves a bright future.”
On the Road
Two of the residents have been successful in getting their driver’s license with the assistance of volunteers providing much needed and appreciated driving practice. The Braking the Cycle Program from PCYC has also been very supportive. Some of the other men are studiously studying the Road Rules booklet to obtain their Learner’s Permit. Having a licence creates more opportunities for employment pathways.
Our residents and volunteers enjoyed lovely food prepared by Miranda, a sweep organised by volunteer Carolyn and the race live from Melbourne. Australian culture was shared and the spoils went to the winners.
Pathways to Employment
Five men successfully obtained their White Cards with the assistance of volunteers. It’s an onerous task for people who have English as their second and third language as it takes about 5 hours to complete.
6 men are now employed in various casual jobs. The success of gaining employment comes from the determination, presentation and conscientiousness of the men themselves but also from the commitment and support of the volunteers who have helped prepare resumes, given advice on employment opportunities, introduced them to members of their social networks resulting in work opportunities and generally being a positive influence believing in them and their abilities.
One volunteer member of the St Johns Wood neighbourhood has helped with ABN and business card for one hard worker
One resident has completed a Barista’s course and will be engaged in 2 days work experience. He is hoping to find employment in the hospitality area. Another resident is training with a company to be a truck driver.
And the latest good news story… A resident who did not have a visa, income or work rights was at last given permission to work. In just one week a volunteer helped him with his resume, took him around to workplaces to hand it in, helped him submit it online and within a couple of days he (and us!) were jubilant to learn he was successful in getting a job.
A couple of the residents have been enjoying the benefits of a fitness program kindly offered by Will from You Toucan Coaching.
Upskilling in English
A few of the men are now engaging in classes with a very experienced volunteer to improve their English with the purpose of improving their employment options.
World Wellness Group (WWG) have started a GP outreach clinic at the units every second Thursday. This is a fantastic service for the residents some of whom have no Medicare or financial capacity to buy necessary medications. WWG also assist with referrals for mental health support, dental work and other specialist needs.
Wednesday night Ithaca hall table tennis coordinator Zac welcomed residents to their first visit to their first free and friendly game. There are plans for the residents to form their own club and book the hall for regular games.
One of our volunteers, Lizzie Ambrose has been taking a group of volunteers, supporters and Bardon residents free yoga sessions in the courtyard at Jubilee Terrace. Our First nights were Tuesday 5th and 12th December at 6pm. No experience required. Bookings through Mandy.
As we receive no government funding for this project, we are constantly thinking of ways to save money and an easy way is on our power bills. A volunteer, Vicki educated the men about energy efficiency and how they can personally lower their bills.
- St Vincent de Paul visit the units every month with a food voucher for each resident while Red Cross also visit monthly to provide those with no income Go Card top ups and a food voucher.
- Bardon State School are doing monthly food deliveries of the basics which is very helpful for those men with no financial means.
- St John’s Wood community continue to provide support in various ways; food supplies, personal support, employment opportunities and social connections.
- The men are also able to access the pantry at Communify each week.
Social and Practical Support
With the assistance of volunteers using their own networks, men have been connected to faith communities where they are meeting others and joining the church choir. Faith is an important parts of peoples’ lives and the men find it reassuring that there are welcoming faith communities who support them.
Volunteers who do personal support invite the men into their homes and families expanding their contacts and friendship groups.
Volunteers take their buddies shopping and check in on them on a regular basis. They help them with paperwork and navigating their way through the complex Centrelink processes, change of address forms, ABN applications and TFN applications.
We also call on volunteers to drive some of the men to appointments when necessary particularly if the men are new to the area and not yet familiar with public transport.
It’s such a powerful experience to meet a person from another culture particularly from a refugee background and the residents are very keen to meet people from the broader community. This happened with the garden project Afghani BBQ.
To follow this very successful BBQ an African themed dinner took place last Sunday where our African residents took the opportunity to cook their traditional dishes. Our plan is to host these dinners on a regular basis inviting different groups to enjoy this experience. Enjoy our video of Gabriel teaching us a traditional Cameroonian song.
We can honestly say that the men living in the units are truly benefiting from their connections with volunteers and we are fairly confident in saying that the volunteers are also benefiting. There is a sense of community and support between the men and the volunteers and between the residents themselves.
We have 9 different ethnic groups and various religious faiths living in close proximity but the men and the volunteers are a fine example of tolerance acceptance inclusivity and welcome.
Thank you for making this possible and we look forward to the future and hope you remain part of it.
We wish you and all your family and friends a very Happy Christmas and safe New Year!
The Asylum Circle Team