A passion for helping young people thrive

19 June 2020

“This Refugee Week, I want to thank everyone who works with refugees. It’s not easy because it requires understanding culture and backgrounds, and issues such as trauma that come with it.”

“There are a lot of passionate people who want to help and can encourage refugees. What I’ve seen at BSL is a very supportive environment. People are very passionate and genuinely helping communities and refugees.”

Anwar’s own journey to Australia was an exceptionally long one – 28 years in fact. He, his mother and sisters fled the war in the Nuba Mountain region of Sudan when he was just aged four. Then at 14, he was forced to leave his mother in Khartoum and flee for Cairo with his uncle. His wait there, living as a refugee and waiting to be granted asylum in Australia, took 14 more years – in the end, he was accepted by Australian Immigration on a partner visa.

“Life in Egypt was very, very hard,” says Anwar.

Waiting in Cairo, he was stuck, unable to advance his life. In Egypt, refugees are not allowed to access mainstream school, he explains. “They have refugee schools. The certificate you get from them isn’t recognised anywhere.”

In 2013, Anwar was accepted into Australia to join his fiancée of nine years, a woman he had grown up with in Sudan and Egypt. He was excited just to get out. “At that time, I wouldn’t have minded any country that accepted refugees.”

Anwar says finding somewhere to settle is simply to “find a safe place where you can just live like everyone’s living”.

Now 35, Anwar is married to his fiancée and studying for a Certificate IV in Community Services. He is very involved in his local Omarang community group and is passionate about helping young people to live their best life.

It was through his community that Anwar found the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL). Our Refugee Action Program was working with the Epping Omarang community group, and he volunteered to lead a BSL sport program with the group’s children.

“When I got to Australia, there wasn’t much support,” says Anwar. “That’s why I got into the soccer program. To bring young people together and mentor them indirectly.” The soccer club is currently on hold, and doesn’t have a regular practice space, but Anwar is determined to find a field and keep it running after COVID-19. This mentorship was Anwar’s first step towards the more formal work he now does in youth engagement.

Anwar’s involvement deepened when he was made volunteer leader of a BSL camp project for young people in Epping. He participated in planning and delivery of the camp. He saw an opportunity to step into paid work when one of our youth team left and his application was successful. Now he works part-time with colleagues, Anna and Zara, in our Multicultural Communities Team to help young people connect to community services.

“This is what I want to do,” Anwar says. “Helping and serving the community is my passion, especially in the youth area.”

“I had a very rough childhood. I know the importance of having mentors and people who can help while you are growing up.”

Find out more about services BSL provides for refugees and migrants .