Welcome to our special series celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in MercyCare’s employees, volunteers and service users. Our stories are accompanied by Steve Wise’s remarkable photographs, that show how these ordinary, yet extraordinary, people are individually effecting change for themselves and the people around them. We hope you enjoy their personal stories.
Sina Abbasi – MercyCare It Takes A Village Playgroup Member
Her own younger years torn apart by war, Shokofa Abbasi has envisaged a very different future for her son Sina in Australia.
Shokofa arrived in Australia with her two children to join her husband in 2015. She gave birth to son Sina, now three, a year later.
“When I first came to Australia, I got pregnant, had a baby, then had depression so I wasn’t really able to go to any English classes. Over the past four years I haven’t been able to learn a lot, but now I am very keen to learn,” Shokofa said through a translator.
The setback in Shokofa’s education was sadly nothing new to her.
“When I was six years old, the war in Afghanistan was really bad. I remember the war was going on
in Kabul and we used to hide and try and stay safe.
“Some areas were worse than others, so we used to climb the mountains to get to a safer area.”
Six-year-old Shokofa and her family fled Kabul to Iran via Pakistan. She spent the next 20 years in Iran as a refugee.
“As a refugee in Iran I didn’t have the same rights as a citizen and wasn’t allowed to go to school. When the other kids used to leave to go to school, I used to just watch them.”
After having her first daughter, the UN Refugee Agency was able to give all refugees access to education. Shokofa jumped at the chance and steadily completed classes so she was able to read and write.
Her husband made the move to Indonesia, leaving Shokofa and their two children in Iran, and was eventually able to secure a visa to Australia. Two years later he was able to sponsor to bring his family over.
“It was really hard being apart for those five years.”
While she struggled with having a newborn in a new country, Shokofa could see the potential Australia held for her children.
“While I missed my old life in Iran terribly, when I came to Australia I felt included because I had the same rights.
“If I compare my childhood to the younger generation it has been so different. When I was young, I was in a place of war and everything was messed up. Now my kids have everything here.”
Shokofa’s optimism has been reflected in her joining MercyCare partnership, the Step by Step Settlement program.
Shokofa and Sina attend the It Takes a Village Playgroup where Sina has thrived and Shokofa has met many women from Afghanistan.
It has also enabled Shokofa to access English classes and case workers to provide her with hope for a better future in Australia.
“I really love to communicate with other people and make friends from other communities. Right now, I can’t, but when I finish my English classes I am looking forward to that.”
As Sina makes new playgroup friends, and is able to communicate in two languages, his future as he heads towards school in Australia looks bright.