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Celebrating the contributions of refugees

Celebrating the contributions of refugees

Refugee Week is celebrated across Australia from 19 – 25 June to highlight the importance of refugees and acknowledge positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.

The aim of the celebration is to create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration enabling refugees to live in safety and to continue making a valuable contribution to Australia.

For Sonder, Refugee Week provides an opportunity to promote positive images of refugees and create a culture of acceptance and welcome in the community.

Refugee Week aims to:

  • Educate Australians about who refugees are and why they have come to Australia.
  • Help people understand the many challenges refugees face coming to Australia.
  • Celebrate the contribution refugees make to the community.
  • Focus on how the community can provide a safe and welcoming environment for refugees.
  • Encourage community groups and individuals to take positive action that supports refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people, within Australia but also around the world.
  • Encourage service providers to reflect on whether they are providing the best possible services to refugees.

Employment Solutions

Sonder’s Employment Solutions program has operated since 2019 and aims to support migrants and refugees living in Adelaide to find meaningful employment.

The program is based on a modified version of a successful, evidence-based model known as Individual Placement Support (IPS) which has been implemented in Australia and internationally with outstanding results. Sonder’s Employment Solutions program is the first in the world to customise the IPS model specifically towards helping migrants and refugees and has so far helped hundreds to find meaningful employment.

Employment Solutions’ Career Coaches support clients along the entire journey towards employment, including providing help with job searching, writing resumes, and preparing for interviews. Clients are also able to access support from Sonder’s Wellbeing Coaches who help them to overcome some of the barriers and difficulties they may have experienced with migration.

Celebrating narratives of resilience, change and hope

To celebrate Refugee Week this year, we share stories from two clients which have been supported to find employment through Sonder’s Employment Solutions program.

Lily’s story

Lily* was born in Myanmar and came to Australia on a humanitarian visa in 2009. In 2021, Lily was referred by Workskil into Sonder’s Employment Solutions program.

Lily had worked previously as a Primary school teacher in Myanmar until 2008. However, she had not worked in Australia since arriving 13 years ago because of family responsibilities and major health issues.

When Lily arrived in Australia, she was not able to speak English well and therefore had a difficult time communicating. She decided to take English lessons to learn the language and be able to communicate well with others.

While caring for her children and slowly recovering from her health issues, Lily volunteered at AMRC as a cleaner. She also worked as a support helper at an aged care facility to test the waters and see whether she would enjoy working in the community services sector before undertaking a course in Individual Support. Lily found that she enjoyed helping others, so she went on to gain the qualification.

When Lily joined Sonder’s Employment Solutions program, she lacked confidence, was unsure of how to apply for roles and did not know what direction she wanted to focus on. She found it difficult to take care of young children whilst coping with the rigors of chemotherapy. Lily opted not to tell her children of her ongoing health battles as she did not wish for them to worry.

Rose was assigned as Lily’s Career Coach at Sonder. Rose supported Lily to attend two job expos and assisted her in communicating and networking with employers to discuss the types of jobs available and what she wanted to do. At first, she was hesitant and uneasy about talking with others, but Rose encouraged Lily to speak with employers and apply for roles to build her confidence.

Lily attended a range of different events, career expos and employer engagements and with the support of her Career Coach, she slowly developed her self-confidence and communication skills.

Whilst Lily enjoyed working in community services, she found the work hours were not suitable for her and her family. A job opportunity arose at RM Williams with hours which would work well with her schedule. With support from Rose, Lily decided to apply for a position with the organisation as a Production Worker. She had previously applied for this role but was unsuccessful as she felt as though her application was not well prepared.  Lily’s application was successful the second time around, and she still works there happily today.

Lily keeps in touch with her Career Coach and has expressed numerous times that she is happy and satisfied with her job. She has since been offered a permanent position in RM Williams. Lily expresses much gratitude for the assistance she received from Sonder’s Employment Solutions program as well as the ongoing support and encouragement she receives from her Career Coach.

Lily’s Career Coach, Rose said –

Lily is a very beautiful person who has always focused on others and not herself. Her resilience and compassion for others shine and it has been a pleasure to get to know her and support her on her employment journey and career path.

Rafik’s story

Rafik* spent most of his life in a refugee camp before moving to Australia with his partner and children. Despite having great experience with industrial sewing, Rafik struggled to find work in Australia for over five years.

Rafik’s job provider met with him regularly to fulfill the necessary obligations to Centrelink, but Rafik found that there was little vocational progress. Lacking local experience, Rafik’s English-speaking skills were poor, and a hard life had taken its toll on his health. Despite this, Rafik had a strong desire to work. Rafik’s children were settled in school, he and his partner had a comfortable home, and he knew that if he found the right job, he could give it one hundred percent.

Rafik was referred to Sonder’s Employment Solutions Program for employment support. Michael was assigned as Rafik’s Career Coach. Michael took the time to get to know Rafik personally and find out his motivations, strengths, and capacity as well as how he responded to various challenges.

Michael spent a day with Rafik travelling to different employers to give Rafik experience and confidence in talking to employers face-to-face and distributing his resume. The quality time spent together in the car gave Michael and Rafik the opportunity to get to know one another and build mutual respect and trust.

Michael worked closely with Rafik to build his resume, write cover letters, telephone employers, and arrange work trials.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Rafik completed a vocational English course which enabled him to gain important skills in workplace English, Work, Health & Safety, and computers.

One of the roles Michael and Rafik applied for together was a sewing position at a food packaging company. The organisation offered Rafik a work trial and remarked that he did well but struggled with some of the finer work because of his eyesight. Michael engaged with Rafik’s job provider so they could arrange for glasses to be made. Unfortunately, due to miscommunication and lack of follow up, the job opportunity slipped away.

Michael commented –

It’s frustrating to watch talented, dedicated people fall through the cracks because of a system that struggles to recognise their value. At the same time, it’s encouraging that Sonder’s client-focused approach gives us the freedom to concentrate on the client, rather than a checklist.

Michael persisted to advocate for support for Rafik’s eyesight with Rafik’s job provider and eventually Rafik was able to have prescription glasses made. With Rafik’s vision issues resolved, Michael made contact again with the food packaging organisation, explaining that Rafik would no longer have issues with the finer work. The organisation went on to offer Rafik a full-time position and he has now been employed for over a year. He no longer receives welfare and even completes a sewing business on the side with hopes of growing it into something more.

Michael added –

He’s not just ‘contributing to society’, he’s doing something that is meaningful to himself while supporting his family and watching his kids start their own journey into university, and beyond; and it’s a privilege to be a small part of that journey.

*Client names have been changed for confidentiality

Are you a migrant or refugee looking for work?

Sonder’s Employment Solutions program is designed for migrants and refugees, aged between 16-64, who live in the northern and western suburbs of Adelaide and are receiving income support payments.

The program provides a personalised service to help achieve the career goals of the individual. This service is entirely voluntary and is not connected to Centrelink Job Service Providers.

To find out more about Sonder’s Employment Solutions program, visit sonder.net.au/programs/employment-solutions

For more information about Refugee Week 2020, visit refugeeweek.org.au

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