From a refugee camp to working with children – celebrating 2020 as the year of welcome

by Freya Lucas

June 17, 2020

As Australia participates in Refugee Week (acknowledged from Sunday 14 June to Saturday 20 June), and the theme ‘celebrating the year of welcome’ a range of resources, stories, pictures and recipes are being shared through the refugee week website, including the story of Naomi Musangi, who came to Australia after she was forced to flee her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo at just nine years old.

 

After her family left the Democratic Republic of Congo, they moved to Zimbabwe, where Naomi was confronted by seeing children her age, and younger, working 12 hour days to help feed their families. 

 

“We had to visit a refugee camp regularly to fill out form for our humanitarian resettlement in Australia, and that’s where I saw them,” she said. “I remember crying on my mother’s shoulder, saying it isn’t fair for those kids.”

 

It was this formative experience which changed the direction of Naomi’s life. Having previously wanted to be a journalist or lawyer when she grew up, Naomi now knew that when she came to Australia, her dream would be to “help children be free to just be kids”.

 

Arriving in Australia in 2009, with her mother and siblings was “a dream come true”, but also not without its challenges. 

 

“Growing up in Australia has not always been easy,” Naomi said. “I barely spoke any English, I was bullied at school, and I felt as if no one cared. Fighting my way through high school, trying to learn English and my new country, I tried to find a job in Year 11. I received many ‘Nos’ and saw many Australian friends secure employment at the same places I had applied. This made me feel less of myself; I had so much doubt and low self-esteem.” 

 

Naomi persisted, beginning a traineeship in hospitality, and then moving to study community services at TAFE. 

 

“This opened up much more opportunities for me, helped improve my confidence to try new things and then I discovered Access Community Services.”

 

Naomi volunteered for the organisation’s Humanitarian Settlement Program assisting new arrivals, but never forgot her dream of working with children, so she was introduced to Access’ Multicultural Sports Club (MSC).

 

“This is really where my journey began. I started teaching dance to children, and although I was very shy, the team was always encouraging, welcoming and supportive,” she said.

 

“This made me realise I had people who believe in me and helped me become the best version of myself. I have improved my English speaking and writing skills, improved my confidence and become more integrated with the community around me.”

 

Bolstered by her success in the MSC program, Naomi has recently enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Work with Griffith University.

 

“Having found my place in Australia, I will continue to work with my colleagues and mentor young children to find their own place.”

 

To read more stories, or to access a wide range of resources to support Refugee Week, please visit the website, here

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