circleof friends by Annie Waddington-Feather
Sanaa and her
family fled from Gaza two years ago. The family (she has seven children) have been living in Blackwood, SA in a house
rented by the Red Cross for nearly three months in community detention.
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Circle of Friends refugee support co-ordinator Barbara Brown (on right) with Sanaa and her family. Claire Frankham (centre) is a Blackwood Circle of Friends volunteer who is helping Sanaa and her family integrate into Australian society. Sanaa and her children have just received Australian residency status and her husband’s residency will hopefully come through soon. A mathematician, Sanaa left a country ravaged by conflict with bombings, rationing and intermittent electricity and water. “As a Palestinian, we couldn’t travel without papers and when the entrances to Gaza were closed, we had no food or petrol,” she says. “We just wanted to feel safe and there was nothing for my children in Gaza. It was a very difficult decision to make as we had to leave our family.” Their journey to get here has taken in many countries and includes a 28 hour walk across the mountains from Syria to Turkey and being in a detention centre in Greek Cyprus. “The children learnt to speak and write Greek as well as English while we were there,” says Sanaa, recalling how one of her daughters was amazed to find they had permanent electricity in Cyprus. “I couldn’t believe we had it all the time,” she says. The Circle of Friends has helped in many ways, including getting the children into a local school through the New Arrivals program. All are doing well with the older ones hoping to go to university. “My husband once said that education is more important than food,” says Sanaa.
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Other areas the Circle has assisted are with basics such as shopping and public transport and the family have been regular visitors to Beacon Emergency Relief at Blackwood Church of Christ. “It was so hard to begin with,” Sanaa recalls. “But my husband told me it would get better.” And it has. “We are so happy to be here and people are very kind,” says Sanaa. Her daughter agrees. “I was surprised about volunteering and how people help us for no money,” she says. “It wouldn’t happen in my country”. Sanaa and her family consider themselves to be very lucky to be in Australia. “I like it here and the weather is like Gaza weather. I’m so happy. Life here is easy and friendly and we’re safe,” she notes. Her husband is currently looking at work options for when he receives residency status. www.blackwoodtimes.com.au