Friday December 5, 2008
Eight years ago Flora Fekira and her mother escaped hellish conditions in Sudan and Uganda, moving to Australia with nothing but the clothes on their backs and huge expectations of a safe life in Western Australia.
But the reality was very different -neighbours they never saw, a phone they didn't know how to connect and nobody around to counsel or assist Flora and her mother. It was not long before they fell into a world of loneliness. Even though the war was still raging, they longed to go home.
After battling for six years to find a connection with her new home, Flora met a woman from Red Cross who encouraged her to become a volunteer. From that moment on, Flora never looked back, quickly becoming a voice for refugees through Red Cross youth programs like save-a-mate, the World Aware leadership program and the influential youth advisory committee.
'I found hope through my volunteering experience,' Flora says.
Other volunteers who fled horrific conditions in the land of their birth are also giving back to the community. Retired doctor Ramzi Barnouti used to volunteer for the Iraqi Red Crescent in Baghdad for 10 years before the breakdown of civil society made it too dangerous for his family to stay. He now spends his spare time helping asylum seekers find free medical care.
Nilofar Najimi, 19, was born in war-torn Kabul. Despite speaking no English when she arrived four years ago, she has just completed year 12 and has been a member of the South Australian Youth Advisory Council for more than a year.
On December 5, International Volunteer Day 2008, Red Cross would like to thank all our 30,000 volunteers and the people who make volunteering happen. They come from all walks of life and a huge diversity of communities and you can read some of their stories on our International Volunteer Day webpage.
Our volunteers work in programs that target the most vulnerable members of our community: health and nutrition programs for young people such as save-a-mate and Good Start Breakfast Club; Telecross, a daily phone call to the elderly; practical life skills programs for migrants and refugees and disaster relief for people both here and overseas.