XSJN Volunteer Stories

Words from one of our valued volunteers engaged with our partner agencies.

Anne Ablinger - Volunteering with the Brigadine Asylum Seekers Project (BASP)

As a Xavier parent for ten years, I had skirted around the edges of volunteering with XSJN. I had attended various forums and dinners and was inspired by the work people were doing and stories being told. I had also done some work in the kitchen at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda.

Last year I decided to make a commitment to one of the many organisations XSJN work with.

I had looked at the extensive list of work they were doing and was quite overwhelmed as to where to start.

I emailed Danusia and asked for some guidance.

After a long chat about the different groups they were supporting, those that might be in the most need, and what I felt I might be able to offer,  I decided to look into the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project (BASP). Their main focus being to house and support asylum seekers and refugees in Melbourne.

I have worked in education in the Western suburbs of Melbourne for more than 30 years and thought there might be a need for some of my skills. I have seen and enjoyed the benefits and learning that multiculturalism brings to communities.

I filled in the BASP online documentation and made an appointment to speak with them.

Again, the list of services BASP were providing to the refugee and asylum seeking community in Melbourne was extensive and they were looking for any support that could be offered. I was told that my commitment could be as little or as much as suited me and they had no minimum requirements for what I had to do.

We discussed various groups of people they were working with and came to a family they thought I might be able to support.

I feel very lucky that I have been introduced to an Iraqi family whom I am proud to call my friends.

Noor is a single mother with 2 sons.  One with autism and the other born in a detention centre who shows behaviours associated with trauma. Both boys attend school and have various issues they are working to overcome.

Noor and I chat weekly on the phone and meet for coffee when we can. I have taken the boys to karate lessons on a Saturday morning for a term and  attended school meetings to support Noor. Over the summer holidays we organised for the family to attend an Edmund Rice family camp in which the boys were kept active and Noor had some respite. We spend a lot of time discussing parenting teenage boys. The joys and challenges! She shares stories of living in Iraq and the hardships they have faced. She is very grateful that she now lives in Australia and feels safe raising her sons here.

anneandnoor
Noor preparing a meal to share with Anne's family. 

Noor is a woman of courage, bravery, commitment to her family, patience and humility. The benefits my family receives from having Noor and her sons in our lives is invaluable. Our lives are richer as a result of BASP connecting us.

The XSJN has such a diverse range of volunteering opportunities that there really is something to suit everyone. It provides us with the opportunity to show our boys how privileged they are and that small acts of kindness can produce big change.  

Jo Lynch - McAuley Community Services for Women

freetofeed

 

As a Xavier parent, I always enjoyed all the opportunities to volunteer with school-associated activities and I have made many lasting friendships along the way. Joining the XSJN has enabled me to continue to volunteer as a past parent. 

I started off with Free to Feed. This is an organisation that provides cooking classes given by refugees and asylum-seekers. Volunteers provided support in facilitating the classes as the participants learnt how to make all the delicious dishes and then sat down together to enjoy the feast they had created and hear the story of their instructor and how they found their way to Australia. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had put a stop to the classes, but the talented cooks were able to change to an alternative model, making means that could be delivered. Since then, Free to Feed has moved to larger premises, resumed the classes and also offers corporate catering, It has been so successful that volunteers are no longer required. A cooking class voucher makes a perfect gift by the way! 

The XSJN truly is a network. Maria, a volunteer at Friday Night School, told me that a mother brought her children along every week and always brought delicious homemade Ethiopian treats to share. Maria wondered if we could link Zalika up with Free to Feed as she clearly had culinary talent, and this would give her an opportunity to share her gifts. Zalika is now an instructor at Free to Feed and her classes are very popular - you can find more information at www.freetofeed.org.au 

I now volunteer with McAuley Community Services for Women as an online tutor. McAuley provides housing, employment support and children's services for women affected by domestic and family violence and homelessness. It is a wonderful organisation that supplies support and training to its volunteers. It's possible to help out in all sorts of ways such as assisting with cooking and serving community lunches, getting accommodation ready for a family to move into or wrapping Christmas gifts. It doesn't have to be a huge time commitment, I'm able to fit the tutoring around my work and family obligations. 

I highly recommend volunteering via the XSJN, there are all sorts of opportunities there to choose from. You can really make a positive difference while meeting some of the wonderful people, both those you help and your fellow volunteers. It's all good! 

Written by Jo Lynch, XSJN member and volunteer of McAuley Community Services for Women and past volunteer of Free To Feed. 

 

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) - Marisa Reid

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is a free service to help eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills and settle into Australia.

Some months ago I responded to the call in the XSJN Newsletter asking for volunteers to join the program.

Firstly I embarked on a very interesting training program run for volunteers. It was well organised informative and educative. After completing my training I was asked to provide some information about myself and the type of student I felt I could work with. Soon after, I was paired with my student, a lady from Mauritius.

Now we spend an hour a week speaking on a vast array of topics. Due to Covid restrictions, it is all done online but I am really looking forward to the day we can meet in person! I often follow up our conversations with emails showing new words which have come into the conversation or concepts, often with accompanying pictures. We have covered all manner of things from terms an optometrist might use to hairstyles!

Often my student will ask me about topics I need to research or how things work in Australia and how to access various services etc. So much about daily life that we take for granted can be daunting and overwhelming for people who are new to Australia and who have little support and very limited resources. It is truly humbling to see the determination and hard work migrants put in to make their new life a success. Their situations are often lonely and isolated so even one hour a week with a volunteer can make a real difference.

 

Marisa Reid - language tutor

 

Each session is logged via the AMEP program and they provide endless resources and support. There are regular chat groups that volunteers can attend which can help to expand your ideas and resources and ways to help your student. The students have a vast array of abilities, education and needs so each experience is a new and different challenge. By enabling volunteers to share their experiences the whole program is more effective.

I think the AMEP program represents a wonderful volunteering opportunity that is flexible, well supported and not onerous in terms of time required. I have found it to be extremely rewarding is so many ways and I would happily recommend it. For further inquiries into becoming a volunteer tutor for AMEP please contact the XSJN Office at XSJN@xavier.vic.edu.au Written by: Marisa Reid, XSJN Volunteer for AMEP and parent at Xavier College

Written by Marisa Reid, XSJN volunteer for AMEP and parent at Xavier College.  

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