Corporate partners and members of Sydney Catholic Schools staff have been given the opportunity to learn more about the experiences of refugee students and the work of the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) in honour of refugee week.
Seven refugee students, one of whom had been in Australia only a few months, addressed the gathered crowd at Holy Spirit Catholic College Lakemba as a way to share their experiences and thank sponsors for their contributions to programs that support access to Catholic education for new arrivals and their families.
Two of the students who spoke were siblings Jame and Jowel, who discussed their family’s decision to flee Syria for Lebanon and then Australia. Both were thankful for the support of the Catholic Intensive English Centre (CIEC) at Holy Spirit, citing learning a new language and studying in a new education system as the most difficult and rewarding aspects of their new life.
Neither Jame nor Jowel were allowed to study during their time in Lebanon, and they are now catching up on skills like essay writing even as they enter years 12 and 9 respectively.
“In Syria it was more about memorising the content – it’s so much content, more than here, but you have to memorise it all,” Jame said. “Here you have to search for the information and content. It makes you think more.”
“It’s hard for all the people who come here. The way they think in their own language is different than English. In Arabic, you think from right to left, in English you think from left to right.”
“Also for school here we use a lot of technology. In Syria we didn’t,” added Jowel.
Scott Wilson and Chris Kerr, director and sales manager at foundation partner LJ Harper, said the sorts of stories they heard at the event made them proud that their company could help provide bursaries and stationery packs for students.
It’s fantastic to see what 12 months can do for these students
“Their stories make our problems seem very minor,” said Mr Wilson. “It’s fantastic to see what 12 months can do for these students when they are in a great school and a great environment.”
“It’s about giving back, because Catholic schools have given us so much,” said Mr Kerr.
The event also featured insights from SCS staff and closed with a version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah sung by students in English and Arabic.