Volunteer role: Encounters mentor
Early this year, a small notice in the Jewish News caught my eye. The notice advertised an upcoming JAA volunteer induction. I already knew a bit about the wonderful work of JAA with the Sudanese and Indigenous communities, but I was keen to learn more about it, and I wanted to contribute in a hands-on way.
The first meeting really impressed me. I was taken aback by the diversity of the volunteers getting involved with the JAA projects: bar and bat mitzvah students, uni students, young adults, mums and dads, business people, and retirees. JAA unified them all by providing a variety of meaningful opportunities to help communities in need.
In a very short time I was paired with Mona, a beautiful Sudanese refugee. Mona lost her first husband in Sudan and she arrived in Australia as a single mother with three young children. At first, Mona and I would meet weekly at the Dandenong library, where I would assist her with the homework from her childcare course. Let me say – that homework was not easy! I also assisted Mona at her home, helping connect her modem and getting her wi-fi sorted. Being a complete technological luddite myself, I was very proud of the fact that, together, we got the system working.
Mona is keen to get her Australian driver’s license, so I have assisted her with practice for the Hazard Test, and accompanied her to her local VicRoads office to book her appointment for an interpreter-assisted test. It was amazing to find out that VicRoads provides an interpreter who speaks Nuer, Mona’s Sudanese dialect, a language I’d never even heard of!
Often, when we get together, we discuss the things that matter most to Mona: her job opportunities, her children, how her children are going in school, and Mona’s desire for them to grow up into good young adults.
It is very gratifying to see that even the little things I do make such a difference for Mona. She is always so grateful for my assistance. I am constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be born and raised in Australia and, although Mona and I come from such different backgrounds, we have in common the desire for our children to grow up and be good, decent people.
Often, when we get together, we discuss the things that matter most to Mona: her job opportunities, her children, how her children are going in school, and Mona’s
desire for them to grow up into good young adults.
The most rewarding moment for me in my experience thus far occurred a few weeks ago. I was going away for a short holiday, and was explaining to Mona that I wouldn’t be able to visit for a few weeks. She told me, sincerely, ‘I’ll miss you.’
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