“I translate, advocate and help bridge cultural barriers for refugee kids. It’s really fulfilling.” | The Lighthouse – Macquarie University

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In August 2021, Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban and, suddenly I was thrust into the refugee space. Within one week, I had lodged humanitarian applications for 16 family members and started fundraising.

Neilab refugee soccer

It is a great thing that I have fallen into. It has connected me with so many people with a refugee background who, like me, have family in Afghanistan or need support resettling. It has also connected me with rewarding work that marries my personal background with my skills and passions.

Before the Taliban entered Kabul on August 15, 2021, I didn’t have much work experience in this space. But I have never been one to sit and listen. The news propelled me into action. I immediately began calling people and asking what could be done to help. I’ve never been driven by bolstering my resume or clocking up achievements, I’ve been driven by social issues. I see an injustice or a problem and I try my best to find a solution.

Witnessing their growth is incredibly rewarding – seeing the kids pick up phrases that I use or listening to them say they want to go to university like me.

I was connected to Melrose Park Football Club at Meadowbank through the humanitarian charity Mahboba’s Promise. The club had run social inclusion clinics before but needed assistance with a group of unaccompanied humanitarian minors who had recently arrived from Afghanistan. I popped down one Sunday to check it out. Then I popped down the next Sunday, then the next. One year later, I am a team manager and Club committee member.

I translate, advocate and help bridge cultural barriers for these kids. It’s really fulfilling.

We lost our first game 16-0. Two weeks ago, we won 8-1. The change is amazing. In less than a year, the players have gone from battling feelings of frustration and struggling with their emotions to showing respect and teamwork. And winning!

It has taken so much patience, but I understand that the reason they act the way they do is because of the hardships and trauma they have faced. Witnessing their growth is incredibly rewarding, but it’s the little things too – seeing the kids pick up phrases that I use or listening to them say they want to go to university like me.

When I came to Macquarie, I was indecisive. I picked Law and Psychology because I wanted to help people. Growing up in an immigrant household, I didn’t have the same advantages as my peers, and I developed a passion for trying to ensure people like me had equal opportunities. I started the degrees, but soon realised they weren’t right for me.

I started studying Sociology, and Media, Cultures and Communications, with a view to eventually completing a Master of Public and Social Policy. It wasn’t a linear journey – it was picking, swapping, dropping subjects – but Macquarie has always been supportive. During the Afghanistan crisis, my professors gave me huge concessions and some of them even donated to my fundraising efforts.

I know I can’t help every refugee. But I can use my skills and networks to assist those who come to Australia. Whenever you see an issue, I encourage you to consider who you know, what you know and how you can leverage those things to support that cause.

To support Melrose Park Football Club, visit melroseparkfc.com/social-cohesion

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