MSN Student Refugee Awards Presentation

MSN Student Refugee Awards Presentation
The 10 award recipients.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair Phil Neat said this is the fourth MSN program it has funded with total support for the volunteer-led organisation now exceeding $100,000.

“We recognise access to educational opportunities is vital to a rewarding career path. This program goes beyond that by providing career assistance to those who may struggle to navigate the difficult early career years,” Phil said.

Ten local students were selected from the many applications received.Each will receive a $2000 scholarship to support their educational needs during the year.A contract with Konekt provides for career development services for each student.Finally each student will participate in a 13-week mentoring program.The students are shown having received their awards.

One of those students is Byiringiro Nkurunziza - whose name means ‘hope for good news.’ Byiringiro’s family fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo just before he was born and settled in Uganda. There, they lived in a refugee camp and slept on communal mats on the hard ground.

“All I remember from the camp is that it was hard to get food. My mother was a vegetarian so she made gardens full of fruit and vegetables,” Byiringiro said.

My dad died when I was very young which meant my older brother had to help my mother provide for us. He was 11 years old just before we left Uganda and his job was a cattle grazier. From even younger than this though he would trade goods and services including animals for food,” he said.

Byiringiro and his family have been in Australia for six years now and he’s extremely grateful for the opportunity this program has given him. He hopes to put the money towards tutoring, textbooks and maybe a laptop. (Byiringiro is shown with Jon Chin, MSN Chair and Phil Neat, NPCF Chair.)

The awards presentation to the ten successful candidates took place on 22 February.All ten students are from the Newcastle area but arrived in Australia from many different places.Four came from Syria, two from the Congo and one from each of Afghanistan, Burundi, Liberia and Sudan.

In his address to the students Mr Neat invited them to: “Look around the room and see a community that supports you and wholeheartedly celebrates your success with you. We know you have a bright future here in Australia and particularly Newcastle and the Hunter.”

This was echoed in the words of Debbie Carstens of Northern Settlement Services (NSS):“I remember vividly when a few years ago the new Governor of South Australia talked about arriving in Australia as a refugee with nothing but a suitcase full of dreams.”She called on the students to follow their dreams.“You never know where they will take you.”

As part of its role in the program, NSS assessed each candidate’s refugee status, provided cultural training for the mentors, made available their premises for meetings with the students and generally support the students.

Konekt is also a partner in the program.They are working individually with each student to help them build career development plans.NFP Connect has provided each student with a daily planner to help them set goals and keep track of tasks and progress.

To learn more see the article in the Newcastle Herald or watch the NBN news item.