Refugee Week 2017 was all about celebrating Courage. Events held around Australia from June 18-24 celebrated the courage of refugees and of people who speak out against persecution and injustice. Refugee Week is intended to be a call for unity and for positive action, encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home. In our work with The Water Well Project we are frequently amazed at the resilience of the participants we meet. We spoke to Mohammed*, a participant in one of our health information sessions, about his own courageous refugee journey.
1. Tell me a little about yourself
My name is Mohammad. When the war in my home country started, we travelled [to Australia] by boat. I was sixteen when we arrived. When we arrived in Australia we were stuck in detention. When finally I came to Melbourne I couldn’t go to university or anything, and I stayed for one year doing nothing. So I got upset and angry, I fought with anyone, my brother always. Because there was nothing to do.
I came with my parents, my brother and my sister.
2. What are your plans for the future?
I would like to have a jewellery shop, and I would like to study mathematics.
I also know there are a lot of homeless kids in my country, and they aren’t able to study even their own language. So I am doing my best to come every day to study and learn everything. When I think about my future I want to get enough money to go and help them with food, teaching and every single thing. It is difficult to do it, but I will.
3. Did you enjoy the session today?
Yes! It was good
4. What did you think you learnt?
I learnt about healthy food, and problems about the teeth. I enjoyed doing sport and fitness with Andrew because I do fitness every single week so I know some of the exercises. And I got to help him teach the other guys. I enjoyed all of the topics. They were good topics to talk about.
5. Can you tell me about a time when you felt you were brave?
I was brave when I was in detention. When we got the visa, it was a lot of trouble, they cancelled three times. Finally they gave us the Visa on the fourth time, and everything was ready. But I had a friend who stayed in detention after we left - she didn’t come to Melbourne for another two months. She is like a sister to me, we used to stay up until midnight playing games. On the last day we prayed together, myself, my brother and my friend, and while we were praying I was crying. We only had half an hour before we had to leave. I was happy and sad at the same time. She gave me a gift which I’ve kept, I still have it. I think we were both very brave when we had to leave each other. We didn’t know when we would see each other again. But now we are both here, and we see each other in Melbourne.
*Mohammad is a pseudonym used to protect the privacy of our participants