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Refugees making a difference: "Cooking for the community is my passion"

Sri Lanka's civil war took away Simon's family business and took him from his home. But after moving to Canberra, a twist of fate led to Simon reigniting his passion for cooking.

  Simon's refugee story: making a difference in Australia

"My family used to own a grocery shop and a bakery in my hometown. We sold hot homemade meals and I was often cooking curries for customers. But in 2003, our business was destroyed in the Sri Lankan Civil War.

"When I came to Canberra as an asylum seeker, I met people from the Sri Lankan community-some of them used to be my customers at the shop back home. They recognised me and asked me to cook traditional food for some community events. I was very pleased for the offer. The community were treating me like a family member. Plus, after the event, they'd give me lots of food to take back home with me! This was very helpful in fact. Until last year I had no work rights and it was very difficult to cover my expenses.

"Later, while I was working at a community garden, it was suggested that we cook a lunch to celebrate World Refugee Day. My workmates at the community garden immediately appointed me as the chef and offered to help me in the kitchen.

"We cooked at a venue in the city, and many people came. Everyone was very happy with the traditional food we prepared.

"Some weeks after, I cooked a lunch for the community and the owner of a Sri Lankan restaurant was there; he really enjoyed what I cooked and offered me free training to learn how to make other Sri Lankan dishes. I'd been learning new skills and helping him cook for about three weeks and then he offered me a job. My friends came to the restaurant for a meal to help me celebrate and I cooked for them.

"I now work full time as a chef in that restaurant and I'm able to support myself-cooking for the community is my passion and this is a beautiful outcome."

*name has been changed to protect subject's identity.

Make a difference: 5 ways you can help refugees in your community

Help refugees and asylum seekers in your community

Australia is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world and there are many things you can do to make your community an even more welcoming, more supportive and more inclusive place to live.

You could offer someone practical help to settle in, show someone how to access the local services, help them to learn or practice English, or help to establish friendships and networks.

Here's five easy things you can do to help refugees and asylum seekers where you live.

Refugee stories: making a difference

Ali from Brisbane:

Ali from Brisbane: "I just wanted to give something back to Australian society"

Elaheh from Melbourne:

Elaheh from Melbourne: "This country and its people helped to make me stronger"

Tara from Adelaide:

Tara from Adelaide: "It's about giving people hope"

Sarmed from Shepparton:

Sarmed from Shepparton: "It's the least I could do"

How Red Cross makes a difference

Red Cross' Migration Support Programs assist refugees, asylum seekers, people in detention centres, people who may have been trafficked or forced into marriage, people who've been separated from their loved ones and other people who are vulnerable as a result of migration.

We work with people regardless of how they arrived in Australia and regardless of their immigration status because we believe that everyone deserves the right to dignity and respect.

Find out how Red Cross is making a difference to the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants.

To help us, you can donate to our work supporting refugees and asylum seekers in crisis.

Make a difference in your community

Here's five easy things you can do to help refugees and people seeking asylum where you live.