I first met Sayed when the English Language Support Program for Asylum Seekers first started in October 2013. Jesuit Social Services had been approached by the local council to help library staff cope with the number of asylum seekers coming to the library each day requesting help with English and settlement needs. Sayed is Afghani, married with 6 children. He made the journey to Australia on his own. His wife and 6 children are refugees in Pakistan. I also have 6 kids so his experience seemed both familiar and incomprehensible to me.
As Sayed has very limited literacy and communication skills I often sat with him during the sessions instead of pairing him up with one of our volunteers. He has a lot of difficulty retaining information. This is a consequence of the immense stress he is under. Our session only lasts a couple of hours. I am his teacher, not a councillor but of course often our interaction slips into stories of home. In planning the lesson I try to stick to purposeful but achievable tasks. Being able to communicate effectively in English will make Sayed’s experience in Australia that little bit easier. That is my goal.
The contribution we can make to help people such as Sayed cope with the precarious situation they find themselves in, is indeed small. It won’t change the policies in Australia, it won’t help reunited him with his family in Australia, where they’ll be safe and where his children can look forward to a blessed future.
We walk a part of the journey with them in a way. It is a privilege.
– Carole, Victoria