On Friday I read the article in The Armidale Express on Anwar Hakrsh describing the plight and traumatic experiences of his Ezidi community. His ability to settle in Armidale and into Australian life is impressive, as are his achievements in language acquisition, study and work. I am full of admiration.
He expressed concerns about the assistance given by SSI and the need to help the Ezidi community with mail and bills when they do not have sufficient English and cannot respond as needed.
Having worked as a volunteer with an Ezidi family, and as a member of Armidale Sanctuary for the last three years, I might be able to add some information and how to help in this situation.
SSI (Settlement Services International) is a not-for-profit (NFP) organisation, funded by the federal government based on the number of clients on their books and managed from the Sydney head office.
SSI is responsible for the initial settlement from the moment of arrival at the airport. Its staff organise essentials like housing, household goods and accessing services such as gas and electricity, Medicare, Centrelink, banking, health assessments, school and TAFE enrollment. The aim is to help new arrivals to become self-reliant.
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SSI faced an enormous task when Ezidis started to arrive in 2018, often in large groups, despite being initially understaffed and underresourced. SSI has done a huge amount of work for the community.
Once a family is considered to have settled sufficiently, SSI is obliged to discharge their clients to NSS (Northern Settlement Services), an independent NFP organisation. NSS helps with more subsequent needs and services, such as after school homework centres, gaining employment, connecting to further education opportunities and training pathways as well as referring to other community support services.
Additionally, the Armidale Ezidi community has also has significant support from Armidale Sanctuary and its many volunteers.
Over 200 volunteers have been assisting more than 80 Ezidi families proviidng English language support for adults, reading practice for primary children, and assisting with everyday needs such as medical appointments and general social support. That often includes help with mail and bills and making phone calls on their behalf. I have done this frequently for the family I have been seeing.
Most volunteers have found it very rewarding getting to know and help an Ezidi family and have become friends with them over time.
It has been wonderful to see how many Ezidis in our community have achieved so much in such a short time, such as learning English, getting drivers licences, find employment, going into further education through TAFE and UNE, buying a house or starting a business. However, there is still a great need to provide help to the Ezidi community due to the language barrier and unfamiliarity with the Australian culture and customs.
I can only encourage anyone who has a spare couple of hours per week to look into becoming a volunteer with Armidale Sanctuary. Check out the website https://www.armidalesanctuaryhumanitariansettlement.com.au/
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