Thankful to be here, looking to give back
“We were so happy there, but because of the war, we came looking for peace and education.”
I meet Maggie at Featherdale Wildlife Park where she and her son, along with over 90 other Iraq and Syrian refugees, are enjoying a day of rest and relaxation sponsored by Anglicare. She fled from persecution and the war in Syria a year ago. She speaks with fondness of the home she had to leave behind, where she worked full time and actively contributed to the lively community in her neighbourhood.
“I came from Syria, where I was an English teacher. We were so happy there. I used to be so active in Iraq. I have two children in year nine and year ten, and a husband as well. The war meant no schools for my children. We were surrounded by many Muslims. We wanted to stay in our country. We all left Syria because my children needed education. My family are there struggling to stay in our land. ”
Although she is sad to have left her home country behind, she is delighted to have found a new home for her family in Australia. “We are happy here,” she says. “We have had so much help and guidance. We are trying our best to be active in this country. I want to thank this country that has helped me.”
Trying to give back to the community, Maggie tells me of the many things she has studied and her struggle to find employment. “I have done six courses. Computer courses, face to face programs, skilled programs… I am now hoping to find work as a teachers aid. When my son sees us try so hard to work, he does the same. My child now works at KFC while in school. The people coming [from Iraq and Syria] are all educated. They want to work and are all looking to serve. I always ask if there is an opportunity, because we are all looking to work.”
She, like many other refugees from Syria and Iraq, has found great comfort in gathering at Bankstown Anglican’s Thursday night service, which runs in Arabic.
“We go to church every Thursday. We believe in God. [Iraq and Syria] are Christian countries, with churches we always go to on a Sunday. We all believe in God. My church guides me and helps me do the paperwork. I can always ask Rev George Bishai [for help]. He teaches us the Bible and strengthens our belief. Everything here is so different but at church we feel peace and happy and like we are in our home.”