At a loss after leaving her native Brazil behind for a new life in Australia, Cris found renewed confidence after volunteering for MercyCare to help fellow migrants find their feet.
“The programs MercyCare provide for people are very important for them because, like me, when migrants arrive here a lot of us are totally lost and weakened psychologically, financially and morally on both sides: professional and personal,” Cris said.
“Over my time volunteering with MercyCare I have come to realise that the support they give to people is all about making them feel more confident.”
Cris moved to Australia in 2017 to be with her daughter who had already lived in Australia for 14 years. After retiring in Australia, together with her husband they were successful in gaining permanent residency.
In Brazil Cris enjoyed her career as a lawyer, dedicating her heart and soul to her work where she had great directors, salary, position, friends and connections.
Leaving that behind proved difficult for Cris. As an extremely independent woman, she found it difficult in Australia with no English language skills.
“I cried a lot because of the challenges in communicating and losing my independence,” she said.
Her first step in regaining that independence was a driver’s license. She translated the learner’s driving book to Portuguese over a month, and three months later received her licence.
Still feeling at a loss, she looked to volunteering. Her first role was with Juniper in Balcatta for a day a week. Despite not being able to understand staff and residents, she persevered even though she felt depressed and unable to communicate.
After studying at TAFE, Cris joined MercyCare as a volunteer.
“When I started working at MercyCare as a volunteer my life changed completely. MercyCare opened a new door and opportunities in my life,” she said.
“I started feeling better about myself and my new life where I felt I could stay in Australia.”
Over the past year volunteering with MercyCare’s Mirrabooka office Cris’ English has improved significantly.
“The staff at MercyCare are patient, friendly and have a lot of patience to teach me English,” she said.
But it’s a two-way street – and MercyCare’s Mirrabooka Settlement Services have gained so much by having Cris on board.
“Cris has such a willingness to learn. Four words define Cris personally and professionally - commitment, flexibility, responsibility and discipline,” MercyCare Step by Step Settlement Services Alliance Coordinator Florence Tressler said.
Cris has volunteered with MercyCare’s Community Support Program, Step by Step Settlement Services program and Job and Skills Centre.
Recently she was approached to teach computer classes.
Despite feeling worried, Cris put the hard yards in at home preparing.
“Students really enjoy the class, shown by her number of repeat students,” Florence said.
“Cris has adapted the class to be interactive and easy for students with limited English and computer skills. She has also identified that the students would benefit from regular practice and has started some practice sessions which a great hit.
“Cris really embodies strength, courage, determination and hard work.
“She inspires students to break the barriers in their life as they see Cris not allowing barriers to stop her from reaching her goals.”
Now with renewed confidence, Cris plans to look for work in the community or administration field.
MercyCare offers a range of volunteering roles to suit people from different backgrounds and needs to be of value to our work in the community. For more information contact Glenda Bignell on 0436 936 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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