Being Recognised – Sinke’s journey

My people come from the horn of Africa and their reason of migrating has been due to a brutal government regime. We have been driven out of our country because we are what we are, Oromos. Although we are about 45 million in Oromia, we have been forced to be called Ethiopians and refused the opportunity to call ourselves Oromo; we had our lands grabbed off us and our families, students and elites have been imprisoned for decades. Mind you, this is still happening!

I do not mean to disturb your mentality with some horrific truth about my people, but I must mention my identity and my causes for being driven out of my country and many others like me in Diasporas.

I got to know CMY when I was doing my VCE in 2009 during ESL classes. I was shown the advantages of being in Australia and the support that I could get from the organisation. But my strong connection was not made until March the next year. After I got a high score in VCE and secured a spot at Deakin University, a nasty surprise caught my attention. The Department of Immigration had not processed my papers and I was not a permanent resident even after two years of being in the country.

What did this mean to me? I had to either raise at least $10,000 or take off a year from my education. The latter seemed unbearable and the former impossible. as I was not working and was not even receiving a full social welfare income. I was going to be treated as an international student at the university and pay that amount. With that followed the question of “where do I get the money from?” I had no job, no experience and so forth. My world came crashing down on me. I had planned to do a double degree in International Studies and Law straight after my VCE, but in time I realised that was not going to happen.

That is when I contacted CMY. They helped me contact the immigration department, and helped me with lobbying and advocating my case. It is through CMY that I got a volunteering position at Springvale Community Centre. That kept my head busy, at the same time my search for a solution seemed to ease as I came across a wide range of people. My youth support worker Maya Chandra was there with me throughout, listening to me when I needed, sitting there and writing my letters and giving me ideas on how to go about things.

Finding a job now became a little bit easier since I could see myself doing something. I could list skills and responsibilities on my resume more than just jotting down my subjects in high school. While looking for work, volunteering and lobbying the immigration department, I also participated in community work. It gave me a sense of pride when I got people patting me on the back saying, “You will get there”. What I achieved from the above actions was the skill of multi-tasking. Previously all I had to do was go to school and read, only that. After these broader experiences however, the world wasn’t just that, it was different and I needed to explore my abilities and this came through with the help of my family, community and CMY.

Around May 2010 my youth support worker called me up and informed me of an opportunity to work with other young people on a project. I was thrilled beyond words, but at the same time I was not sure of what I was expected to do or the type of young people I was going to face. One thing I was ready to do was explore Australia and be a charitable person just like the workers that supported me throughout that despondent period of letting go of my studies. The group was started by three young ladies (including myself) from refugee background and two youth workers who supported us throughout. We were given the freedom to come up with ideas and then create a project that would be suitable for young people from diverse backgrounds.You couldn’t be given more than this, so we got our heads together, brainstormed the ideas and finally came up with the full version. CMY helped in writing up our ideas and also greatly invested on finding funds for the whole program. Briefly, the program was divided into three parts. It included the group having fun like travelling to places that we would not be able to do alone, learning a leadership program and giving back to the community. It was designed for people aged between 15 and 21 years.

It was not long after this get together, through this experience and meeting different people and actively looking for a job that I landed an administration job for a small business. Now everything seemed to be falling into place, and by November I had been granted my Permanent Residency. But by the time I had the job and my permanent residency, it was late for me to enrol for my bachelor at Deakin University. However, I was able to plan things easily and get myself ready for school payment for the following year and support myself financially.

When we got 10 group members, we came up with the group name ‘Invincible’, this was a new vocabulary for me. It just showed the power of working with different lots of people. Then we set off exploring Australia and having fun as planned. When we headed to Parliament house we learned about the political system, when we visited Wileys Publishing we learned about books, but more so about the experiences of people who have made it to good positions in life and in work places. When we held a session for homelessness, I was appalled by the number of homeless Australians and young people who are stuck in this mess. It taught me how to appreciate what I have more than ever and to lend a hand to others. When I saw a picture of our group in the local paper creating awareness about homelessness, I could not feel any better satisfaction. We were heading somewhere.

Then came the big day in everyone’s mind, the camp! It was going to be my first time spending nights away from home with my friends and the best part was that I had helped create the whole idea. We set off to Phillip Island in the second week of December 2010. At the camp we worked together, set up the tents, took turns to cook and clean up. Taking on responsibilities at the same time as working together with others really taught me lessons about respect, sharing ideas, respecting different values and many more. In one big word, the experience of being with other people taught me the power of harmony. That is when I thought to myself ‘I wish the government of my country could just respect me and my people for who we are’. Our achievements and happiness can only be explained explicitly by the number of photos we took and our facial expressions. We laughed and smiled the whole time. I doubt if I did not smile in my sleep.

It is from all these that a got an opportunity to travel to Sydney to attend the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition‘s annual national conference. Travelling to Sydney for a good cause, representing the voice of my group and the youth at large. What could be a bigger honour at this at this stage of my life? During our stay at Sydney I enjoyed every second of it, listening to people from different experiences, meeting other young people. By the time we had to present our half an hour session, we were already inspired and were determined to show our super project to the crowd. And we did it well. The audience responded greatly and for us, it was an achievement to be able to share our experiences, abilities and contributions with other people. At the end of the three days all I could see was that youth are so powerful; that if given the chance and support at all times, we could make this world a better and best place to live in.

The journey has inspired me to be a better person in my family, my community, at my work and in the world. I remember posting on my Facebook wall ‘I hate 2010’, but now if I was still using Facebook I would post otherwise. I have been inspired by those who have dedicated their time, effort and finance to get me to where I am. I cannot thank CMY workers and the groups I have worked with enough for being the backbone of my successful journey.

When Ralph came to award me a certificate from ‘Creating Dreams’ it showed me the power of caring for others and also recognition. He drove from Sunshine to Dandenong to hand me a certificate of achievement. Somebody was acknowledging my abilities and encouraging me to pursue my dreams. What ‘Creating Dreams’ did for me to travel to Sydney only shows that there are people out there who are more than willing to do anything, even sacrificing their wages to put a smile on someone’s face. All I can say is a gruff ‘Thank you’ to you all, those who we’ve worked together and those who have supported me without face to face meeting. You all contribute to my future even more.

To finish off, I am currently in my first year of Bachelor of International Studies at Deakin University while working and still engaging with CMY. I am one of the committee members for CMY’s Youth Advisory Group, composed of young people who work together to represent the interests of young people and also pursue to influence the policies of our government to cater to the needs of youth and families. Our issues include government funding to combat homelessness, education for migrants, and the lack of jobs for culturally diverse youth. I intend to complete my bachelor and work as human rights activist in the future. It is through these efforts that I want to be a voice for Oromo people, who still fight for their freedom by giving up everything, even lives.
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