Acts of violence were being carried out throughout Darfur and villages were being destroyed. During this time Fatima’s* (not her real name) husband and eldest son went missing. Fatima saw no other choice but to flee Darfur in search for a safe place for her and her children. Like so many others, Fatima made the harrowing journey from Sudan to Egypt with her children in toe. After five long years in Egypt and no word from her husband or eldest son, Fatima was able to gather up the money to make the journey to Australia. This is generally achieved by community support, in which refugees pool together their limited resources to pay for the flights to bring refugee families to Australia.
Fatima and her four children (ages 10, 13, 17 and 20) arrived in Australia in 2010. They were granted refugee status and began the process of starting a new life. Fatima spoke little English and found life in Australia scary and unfamiliar. She took part in basic English classes provided by the Australian government to all refugees, but was still not confident enough to take part in conversation or write and read proficiently. Fatima enrolled in advanced English classes but was confronted with a long waiting list.
Fatima heard about JAA’s women’s group through word of mouth, and arrived with her eldest daughter to see how JAA could help. Fatima joined JAA’s Encounters program where she was partnered up with a new volunteer mentor to the program, who visits Fatima and her children weekly to work on Fatima’s English homework, practice making phone calls and read through letters. Further, at JAA’s women’s group Fatima has been able to practice her English conversation, make new friends and learn from a range of guest speakers from within the community. Fatima has recently begun a childcare course with the intent of becoming self-sufficient.
Fatima’s children also required support to adjust to new life in Australia. One of Fatima’s sons has learning difficulties and has recently started attending JAA’s youth program where he works with a tutor once a week to assist with his homework. Additionally, Fatima’s eldest child is studying a Certificate course in Pharmacy and needed a work experience placement. JAA has been able to help by facilitating a placement in a pharmacy in Elsternwick. The children have also participated in many of JAA’s other programs, including our Bnei Mitzvah program Stand Up, where Jewish and Sudanese children play sport together. They have also enjoyed JAA’s picnics at Caulfield Park and two of her sons led the way at JAA’s inaugural fun run last year.
Recently, Red Cross has been able to locate Fatima’s husband in Sudan. She has been working closely with her JAA mentor to navigate the Australia immigration system in order to bring her husband “home”. JAA is privileged to be able to travel this journey with this family, providing support, guidance and friendship along the way. Whilst Fatima awaits the imminent arrival of her husband after so many years of absence, her thoughts are with her eldest son, who remains missing. We hope one day he will be found and their family can be complete once again.