Sally – 2017
It was with a mixture of pride and sadness that this year we graduated the family we had been working with for three years. Our family of four (mum dad and two children aged 9 and 6 at the time) arrived in Australia from Burma in 2014 and we began working with them about six months after they had settled in Brisbane.
When we first met them, they were all quite shy and nervous about our role, but we discovered that card games are universal, and great ice breakers. Slowly, over time, communication (particularly with the parents) became easier and the children became more confident in their school work. They also started to recognise us as part of their community, and we were welcomed at Burmese community events and parties, which showcased incredible food and dancing. One week we commented on how good the dinner smelt that was cooking, and the next week the mum had made us the most delicious Burmese meal.
It has been an incredible journey and such a privilege to watch the family become more confident in their adopted home. We have watched with pride the parents take on difficult challenges and succeed, and the children improve so dramatically that they both won awards at the end of the school year in 2016.
It was this moment we knew it was time for the family to graduate from the VoRTCS program. It was an incredibly emotional event to see the children walk across the stage to receive their award and we cheered so loudly that people thought we must be crazy. Around the same time, the father found part-time employment and the mother was able to commute to TAFE on her own.
Working with our family has made us proud to be part of VoRTCS which provides these opportunities for both families and volunteers. But most importantly, proud of our family for embracing enormous challenges, dedicating themselves to improving their English and doing it all with big grins on their faces. We would encourage everyone to join the VoRTCS program and see the difference you can make.
Peter – 2017
When they first arrived in Australia from Iran in 2013, Nasrin* and her family faced some incredible challenges. Along with horrific and tragic memories of the recent past, and the challenges of resettling in a new country, Nasrin and her children had the additional problem that none of them spoke any English. To add to this challenge, Freshta, Nasrin’s daughter, had to undergo a number of surgical procedures that meant she was regularly taken out of school for long periods over the next few years. The family was isolated, had no support network, and faced significant barriers to adapt to their new life and make a better future.
Our VoRTCS team met Nasrin and her children in early 2014 and our journey with them has been hugely rewarding. Along the way we’ve seen Nasrin’s English gradually improve and the children’s English improve rapidly. The children have acquired academic and social skills as they’ve adapted to their new schools and their new country. We’ve seen the family gain independence and begin to explore what their local community has to offer. We helped young Jamil take up weekend soccer (his favourite pastime) and learn to mow the lawn (not his favourite pastime). We helped Freshta successfully apply for a volunteer position at a local charity shop and learn the road rules in preparation for gaining her Learner’s permit. Best of all, we’ve seen smiles return to the faces of the family as they start to see a future that contains hope.
Later this year, the family will have lived in Australia for long enough to apply for citizenship. They’re pumped to become Aussies and we’re spending our weekly tutoring sessions helping them with sample tests. We’ve talked to them about graduating from the VoRTCS program later this year. While we will all be sad to see this long engagement come to an end, we recognise the importance of passing this important milestone, and we all treasure the time we’ve spent together.
*Real names have not been used in this story.