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he beginning of the new

year brings hope

Camera, sound & Zoom

and optimism to the forefront of our minds. Without forgetting the very challenging


ankstown Senior College (BSC) has had

Fadi’s journey to Australia started with leaving his home in Iraq, traveling via Turkey

a long affiliation with Mercy Connect

year that’s been due to COVID

Sydney. Volunteer mentors come each

before eventually arriving in Sydney when

restrictions and limitations, we look

week to help students in the classroom

he was 21. Fatima was born in Iran and

forward to a fresh start in 2021. We

with understanding assessment tasks and

spent a large part of her life living without

will also still remain cautious in our

with Maths and English. Over the course of

her father who had come to Australia 10

everyday lives. While our global

many years, Mercy Connect Sydney and the

years ago via boat. They both came to

community is still reeling from a

teachers at BSC have developed a strong

Australia searching for a better life and they

pandemic, our Mercy Mission is still


are now putting together plans for their

as important as ever. Learning from

futures after completing their HSC.

At 11:00am on a typical Wednesday

Staying outside school for five years

the drastic changes we had to make

morning, the now familiar sound of a

last year our programs and projects

zoom call filled my office announcing

meant that Fadi was well behind his

are now beginning to operate at full

the start of the interview. In a classroom

classmates by the time he came to

capacity keeping the safety of those

about 20 kilometres away from my office

Australia. In order for the family to survive

we support our top priority.

in Parramatta, teachers Hedy Brunet and

while they were in Turkey, Fadi and his

Maria Pascalis introduced Fadi and Fatima,

sister had to work to support the family.

you the stories of two refugee

two students who had graciously agreed

Reflecting on the challenges he faced when

students who have jumped straight

to be interviewed about their experience at

returning to the classroom, Fadi says the

back into their studies despite

Bankstown Senior College.

biggest was actually ‘going back to school.’

In this edition we share with

being faced with every obstacle

Coming here when he was 21 meant

Fleeing violence and chasing their

imaginable. Mercy Connect is

futures, both Fadi and Fatima struggled with

that he was told to just go do a course

once again gearing up cautiously

the challenges that come with adjusting to

somewhere and that’s it. Fadi wanted to

for the new school year. Volunteer

life and school in a new country. Finding

finish his HSC because he didn’t the chance

Christine Burrows shares her

a school like Bankstown Senior College

to do that back home.

experience at Merrylands Public

where they were able to complete their

School in Sydney where she

education with support and guidance to

supported adults learning English.

overcome challenges such as language

We are most grateful for your

Fatima’s visa problems prevented her from being able to enrol in university continued next page ➤

barriers gave them the chance

continuing support of Mercy Works

to complete their education.

and all our projects, especially

With the help and support of

with the uncertainties that COVID

teachers like Hedy and Maria,

presents. Thank you!

and programs like the Mercy Connect project, Fadi and

Sally Bradley rsm

Fatima have settled well into

Executive Director

school here in Australia. Fatima and Fadi answer

ing questions during

the Zoom interview


My volunteer experience

➤ continued from previous page

despite already starting a law degree in Iran. She says her


took them away from class the mums

biggest challenge, ‘was starting

n 2019, I had the good fortune to be invited

responded well to the rules imposed on

high school again because

to help with an English Language Learning

them, the little ones soon forgot that mum

I finished high school in my

wasn’t there and feedback was good.

language in Iran.’ It was difficult


project at Merrylands Public School in the

Everyone seemed pleased to be making

western suburbs of Sydney. It was designed

for her to have to start all over

by Catherine Gregory and her fantastic

progress. We all saw real improvement in

again but the support from the

helpers Asma, Donna and Sarah to assist

their skills but just as importantly a growing

teachers at BSC and the Mercy

refugee and migrant mothers of children who

confidence in their ability to take risks with

Connect mentors has made it a

attend the school or playgroup.

the language and use it more often.

lot easier for students like her.

As the year progressed we started to have

Initially we started with us all around a long

Fadi’s age was a big factor

table chatting about anything in varying levels

more new mums keen to learn. These new

in coming back to school. His

of English language proficiency. Marilyn,

additions to the group tended to be from

parents had different opinions on

another Mercy Connect volunteer, started

the very beginner level, Marilyn bravely took

what he should do. Ultimately it

with me and then we were joined by Debbie.

on the task of teaching this group. Between

was his mother’s belief that he

the two of us we were able to provide some

should go back to high school

formalise the “classes” so that students could

useful resources and materials on numbers

and finish it that helped him make

optimise their language learning experience.

work, telling the time, and recognition of

the decision to complete his

Catherine’s organisational skills and her

sound and letter patterns in English. Her

education. Seeing that everyone

negotiations with the principal gave us access

career as a high school and TAFE Science

at Bankstown was around his

to a space to use as a makeshift classroom.

teacher had not prepared her for this!

age and finishing their high

It became obvious that we needed to

We were only one week away from

I then divided the mums into 2 groups

school education, he thought

depending on their English language skills

starting up the program again in 2020 when

‘Why not me? I should do it as

and used the 1 ½ hour meeting time to hold

the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into

well.’ Starting in the Intensive

two 45 minute classes at different levels.

lockdown. This meant that we were unable to

English centre, Fadi found the

While one group was not being taught by me

have any face to face meetings for the year.

support he needed to improve his

Sadly, I will be unable to go back to

they were doing revision work or follow up activities close by with the other helpers. Effective routines needed to be put in

Merrylands in 2021. Hopefully the mums will be able to resume their language

English before he moved into the mainstream classes. Age and language barriers were

place regarding start/end time of classes for

development. At least there is a filing cabinet

also big challenges for Fatima.

the 2 groups and also for the little ones who

full of suitable materials awaiting their return.

Seeing older people studying there

While we said goodbye to Christine last

accompanied their mums. In spite of the many family responsibilities which sometimes

year, we have had many new volunteers join the program in all our locations around Australia.

MERCY WORKS PO Box 2023, North Parramatta NSW 1750 +61 (0)2 9564 1911 37 147 042 466

they can do it, why can I not?. I’m not that old that I can’t study.’ Besides moving school closer

Mercy Connect is pleased to report

Hilltop Road Adult Conversation Class – Paul Taylor (Mercy Connect Sydney Coordinator) and Sally Bradley rsm (Executive Director) with one of the mums.

gave her the confidence to say ‘if

to home, neither Fadi or Fatima

that there are plans in place to restart

would change much about their

the English Language Learning Project

experience at Bankstown Senior

at Hilltop Road in the near future.

College. They are both excited

Christine will be pleased to know that

about what their futures hold.

the new volunteer mentors will be

Fadi is hoping to become a real

able to put to good use her wonderful

estate agent and Fatima is going

resources and start helping the refugee

back to university to continue

and migrant mums very soon.

studying law. n

MINI BILUM Editor Lauren Stariha Design Purple House Design


We are a member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and as such committed to the ACFID Code of Conduct for Australian aid and development organisations. See

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