The LWHS project was run out of the multicultural hub in Preston every week and involved around 40 migrant, refugee and asylum seeker women from a variety of difference backgrounds and cultures, including a large Iranian group, Macedonian, Chinese, Arabic, African and others.
Some women had lived in Melbourne and Australia for years, but others had only arrived a matter of months ago. The project has a number of aims, including providing health information and education for women, and also creating a women’s only space and time where women can relax, share a meal and make new friends. As a volunteer I felt that I also had the opportunity to share in some wonderful cooking from many corners of the world, and also to meet some amazing women who I was able to get to know better over the six weeks of the program.
I was very nervous running the first session, never having done this before, and feeling a little out of my depth as a student despite having desperately ‘swotted up’ on the topics before the sessions.
I predominantly worked with the larger group of Iranian women, as many of them needed the help of an interpreter (either a fellow medical student from Iran, or a generous participant).
The women soon calmed my nerves with their generosity of spirit, laughter and enthusiasm for the health topics we covered. These health topics ranged from healthy eating, sexual health, bone health, mental health through to family planning.
It was a great privilege to be able to work with the same group every week for six weeks. We really grew to know each other.
Over the weeks the women were able to open up, even in a big group, and share their own knowledge and experiences.
I leant valuable lessons about working with people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and the challenges of working with interpreters. I learnt the value of honesty and openness about any lack of knowledge about what is culturally sensitive, and how this humility helps create a more open dialogue.
I hope that the women got as much out of these sessions as I did, and I will miss our weekly get togethers.[slider slider_type="attachments" id="Leading Women's Health and Safety Project"]