Since 2014 I have been a part of the Refugee Language Program, run through the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney. During semester, free classes are available for refugees and asylum seekers to learn and improve their English. Classes include creative writing, intermediate and advanced communication skills, technology, individual tutoring, and conversation practice.
The class teachers are volunteers and include university staff, students, alumni and local community members. There are also a number of volunteers who work as conversation partners after classes or as individual tutors, of which I am one.
Students in the Refugee Language Program come from many countries including the Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Columbia, Peru, Burma, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Egypt, Sri Lanka, China, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Indonesia. Many of the students hold Bridging E Visas, the toughest and most excluding visa that the Government offers. This visa does not allow a person access to Medicare, Centre Link allowances or adult education classes. As such, it is imperative that they get access to language classes to allow them to develop their communication skills for their protection and ease their understanding and communication within the visa process.
Through this program I have met incredible people with amazing back stories, and the one thing that I see in all of them is the ambition to do something amazing with their lives, with the opportunity that Australia provides.
One of the most touching stories so far comes from my dear friend Damon Amb. His art is just as inspiring as his story, and his zest for life and positive attitude is completely infectious. Check out his work featured on The Sydney Morning Herald.