To celebrate International Women’s Day and NSW Women’s Week we are featuring four stories about our inspiring female employees and volunteers. Sydney MCS is a proud women-led organisation, our CEO Rosa Loria started Sydney MCS nearly 40 years ago as a migrant resource centre. Today, we provide services across much of Sydney including aged care, disability, inclusion and Parents Next especially tailored for the CALD community.

Felicity – Community Visitor Scheme Volunteer

Meet Felicity – Felicity works in hospitality, but also graciously volunteers her time with us as a Community Visitor. Community Visitors spend time with our elderly clients to help them overcome social isolation and assist with other tasks.

Your background:
I work in hospitality. At the moment I’m a cook in a university residence. Both my parents are of Irish descent with a bit of Slovakian and Aboriginal mixed in.

How long have you volunteered with SMCS?
I’ve volunteered with SMCS for about 3 years now. Still visiting the same person.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The best part of my job is that I’m looking after other people with my work, and at the same time helping to train my co-workers and do some good in this world. And have fun at the same time.

Why do you volunteer with us?
I just started volunteering with you because I wondered what you did from that Daceyville office. So I popped in to ask (about) volunteering opportunities.

Describe yourself
Someone who makes up her own mind without being swayed by peer pressure or public opinion.

What advice would you give a young woman?
My advice to a young woman is to look for the truth in everything. Not to be superficial but deep – so that means having good values based on the truth.

Lucyna, Social Support Groups Coordinator and Divisional Therapist

Meet Lucyna, our lovely Social Support Groups Coordinator and Diversional Therapist who speaks three languages and worked extremely hard to make a life for her family in Australia.  Read her inspiring story:

Your background

I was born in Poland and moved to Greece to travel and ended up staying for 19 years where I met my husband and started a family. I taught Polish and Greek to children and had some aged care experience. Seven years ago, we moved to Australia and I started a Business Administration and Healthcare course as I had an interest in Aged Care. I completed my qualifications to become a Diversional Therapist. At the beginning of this year, and after seven years of applying and waiting, we finally became Australian citizens.

How is it being a woman in Australia vs Poland vs Greece?

Growing up in Poland I was fortunate to see equality and men behaved like gentlemen towards women. It was similar in Greece. It is great to see empowered women in Australia. Although, I found the pace of life to be different here than Greece or Poland. “A woman’s life is ‘beautifully busy’, but it is rewarding, and I feel alive. Australia to me is colourful,
in its nature, diversity and approaches to life”.

Why did you choose to work at SMCS?

I walked by the Sydney MCS office and when I went inside I was greeted by Rosa, our CEO. I explained my background and she was instantly willing to take me on board because I could speak both Polish and Greek. I was interested in aged care and felt my language skills and qualifications would be put to good use too. I started working on the client transport bus as a bilingual care worker and then moved into my current role as the Social Support Groups Coordinator and Diversional Therapist.
I also volunteer with the local Polish and Greek schools. It has been a busy but enriching time of being a student, employee, friend, volunteer, wife and mother.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Suddenly, I felt responsible for my entire family due to the language barrier, as my husband was a beginner in English. It was also a source of motivation as it pushed me to do be better. Becoming an Australian citizen was a stressful process as it is a constant feeling of uncertainty and
updating visas until you are finally successful. “I finally felt relieved the morning of the citizenship ceremony and felt the stress lift away”.

What advice would you give to your daughter?

I tell my daughter to grab every opportunity as you never know which one will be successful. Also, be humble and learn from your experiences and be sensitive to those around you.

Tan, Home Care Case Manager

Meet Tan, our amazing Home Case Manager who always has a smile on her face. She came to Australia as a child refugee with her seven siblings and their parents 40 years ago. 600 people were packed into a 25 by 6 metres fishing trawler. There were 3 good days at sea, one near death experience on a stormy night, a lucky escape from a pirate ship and two rejections from nearby countries who said their refugee camps were full. Despite this, they were very fortunate to have survived the perilous journey before embarking on one of the islands in Indonesia. There, they were able to take refuge for 6 months before being flown to Sydney on the 9th of November, 1979.

There are numerous stories like Tan’s family, with much more dire situations and consequences throughout human history. These stories all share one common theme: The human spirit that ultimately yearns and search for freedom in the face oppression and persecution. The poem that Tan wrote in 2009 below encounters her memories as a child refugee accidentally growing up in the suburb of Rose Bay, how it has affected her view on disadvantaged people, and why she’s chosen her career path as a woman and once a child refugee.

“Heart n Soul”

I feel misty
I feel lost
something is haunting me
with a touch of frost
my heart feels heavy
my soul feels chained
that yearning deep in me
is calling out “pain”.
I am at that cross road
where I can choose to be
discretely uncomfortable
hiding in my shell
or I can be a bold
outspoken woman
who challenges the status quo.
“Who are you anyway?
to dare question
society’s status quo”
the voice in me calls out
Are you “Fear” or
are you “Doubt”? I said
“I am both of these” the voice replies
“I am here to challenge you, to challenge me!”
My search for an identity began,
when I landed in Sydney 30 years ago,
as a child refugee with my family,
and a pair of white hands.*
I was ten back then,
having been through six days of trauma at sea,
and six months of camp as desolate refugees.
We were stripped off from our dignity and pride,
for the people that we are; and
for the country; its people; friends and families;
we loved and left behind.
My parents bravely told me,
that we could start again,
because Australia is a good generous and lucky country.
They dressed me in my best summer frock,
unbeknownst to them that spring was quite a shock.
As I stepped out of that aeroplane,
I shuddered and shivered until I almost went insane!
This is however, a lighter part of my story,
something that isn’t too important to mention.
Nevertheless I should point out,
I was so happy to be here, I wanted to shout!

But soon this honeymoon ended.
And my “nightmare” started again,
when a year later,
by accident we landed in Rose Bay,
through a Good Samaritan called Norma.
My parents told us to call her “grandmother”,
for she was like a guardian angel from heaven,
who gave us a home and a big back yard.
Our left and right neighbours were wonderful people,
they welcomed us into their homes…until…one day,
someone else moved into the neighbourhood…
That was the day I felt my first stint of ugliness,
he was our neighbour who saw us as second class citizens,
he took his rubbish and dumped it in our backyard,
then told us we didn’t belong here; and to go home.
After several incidents of the similar sting,
one at a beach, one on the street
a few more here and there,
I began to see myself, as a real second class citizen
after all, I’m supposed to be grateful for being here, aren’t I?,
to live in this good, generous and lucky country.
My esteem and sense of identity became fuzzy,
especially during my teens and twenties
I became another one of those “quiet achievers”
whose voice didn’t had a chance to come alive
who didn’t know what to reply, when to reply it,
and how to make it heard, when or if she was ever asked.
That was only a few of the many issues that haunted me;
even to this day.
It’s easier being different,
when “different” means being of the one kind; or group; or band.
But being different in the color of your skin,
or in the color of your hair, or in my case,
“the Asian way”,
is chronically viewed as “outsiders”; or
“the Asian race”.
Then there was the issue of cultural identity
Who was I supposed to really be?
When I was told that I’m Australian by citizenship;
Chinese by my heritage;
and Vietnamese by my country of birth;
all at the same time
I know I would feel like an outsider,
if I’m to live in these countries, and yet,
I gained little sense of identity and comfort,
with the “Aussie fair dinkum” way.

It wasn’t until much later in life did I realized,
that there was nothing wrong with me, but
something is very wrong with this world.
There are people who just moan and criticize,
there are ones who cannot accept,
the diverse people and cultures that we are.
Then there are those that are so
psychologically comfortable,
they choose not to see life outside of themselves.
But there are also many ordinary people,
who do extraordinary things,
like my “grandmother” Norma,
they are people who believe;
that each human being is as precious as every other.
And that each one of us living in this world,
deserves a life,
without judgments and condemnations.
I am truly grateful,
and with my deepest admiration,
to people who live and practice by these humanitarian ways.
As I ponder and contemplate on these thoughts,
the voice gently whispers to me.
“Keep searching for your identity,
make peace with yourself; and with the world.
Search it with all your heart and soul,
until you achieve your goal.
Once on the journey of discovery,
for your free spirited true self.
You will learn the infinite gifts of,
love, compassion, and responsibility,
that has always been within.
You will be most compelled”.

*In Vietnamese, this phrase means leaving all of one’s possessions behind, literally empty handed.

Tania, Bilingual Care Worker and Social Support Group Leader

Meet Tania, our dedicated aged care worker AND volunteer Social Support Arabic Group leader for over 10 years.

Your background:

My background is Arabic Lebanese. One set of grandparents were born in Argentina and another in the United States and when they emigrated to Lebanon, where they could not speak Arabic and had to learn it. My parents met in Sydney. My professional experience includes owning a business, a care worker, Arabic Social Support Group leader, volunteer to assist Arabic refugees, Bilingual Educator and Facilitator, and a carer to my mother and studying Psychology part time.

The most rewarding part of my work:
• Helping them with communication and understanding their needs
• Sharing a laugh, smile and helping them let go of their burdens
• Including them in social activities (Social inclusion)
• Taking them out on a day tour adds meaning to their days
• Introducing the clients to see other choices and different solutions
• Treating the clients with dignity, and showing them empathy

Why do you volunteer?:
I volunteer because I want to place a smile somewhere with somebody who really needs it. Using my time in a positive way to give and cheer someone up who needs it. I enjoy sharing their heritage and visiting their history, there are often some tears shed.

The Challenges I faced as a woman:
I am a women from an Arabic background, which can come with many challenges. I could not do my University degree, although I was excepted, but it was heartbreaking. Living through the war, the family always prioritise the males and gave them more opportunities. Married at a young age, and becoming a single mother by the age of 29. I always remembered myself as a working mother, I believed that I had to be the leader in my home and for my children. I made sure that I had a cooked meal every day and the children’s homework was a priority. Many people talk and ask where my strength comes from. They say that girls harness their strength from their female ancestors, but for me my grandfather was my hero and a great leader, his words always echoes in my ears when he said I want my granddaughters to walk believing in themselves exactly and be exactly equal to the men. I was focused at the light at the end of the tunnel and could see better days ahead. Now I am doing the degree that I always wanted to do.

What advice would you give a young woman?:
Always believe in yourselves, never give up on your dreams.
If one door close in life, remember there are so many more waiting to be opened. If there is a will there is always a way.
Australia is a great country and its arms are always welcoming us with our dreams, we just need to see the big picture that could lead us to where we want.

#IWD2020 #InternationalWomensDay #womensweek #eachforequal

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