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Refugees making a difference: "It's the least I could do"

Sarmed was ten years old when he arrived in Australia with his family, looking for a safer future. He's now a leader in his community in regional Victoria and is inspiring a new generation of kids to contribute to theirs.

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"I love giving back to my community. I remember when my family arrived in Australia. We got a lot of help and that really made a difference. To be able to giveback to the community that helped me grow up and welcomed me when I came as a young refugee is really important to me.

"Most refugees have experienced really difficult times. They know what it's like to need help; to need opportunities. My parents had an ordinary life in Iraq but when Saddam Hussein became president in the late 70s things started to become difficult. My family was forced out of Iraq.

"I was three when we arrived in Syria. It was a great place to grow up-great climate, really friendly people-but, after a few years, things changed. My parents feared we might be sent back to Iraq. Anything could happen-it was politics-and we were Iraqis: we were different.

"Where we lived in Syria is gone now. The town is dust.

"I was ten years old when I arrived in Shepparton. I love living here because it's such a diverse community: so multicultural and so multiculturally proud. My neighbours are Congolese, Afghani, Iraqi, Iranian and, of course, Australian. It's a beautiful place that brings everyone together. It's great to be connected to people from all around the world in your own neighbourhood.

[**** Image of Sarmed****]

"I'm the secretary of the Al Kasem Youth Organisation here in Shepparton. It helps bridge the gap between young people and the older generation; to make them realise we value the same things as they do: our community, our faith, our families.

"I'm at our youth hub every weekend. We do activities like swimming and soccer, and there's a pool table, a PlayStation. We also do things like organising blood donation drives. After the siege in Sydney, we held a candlelight vigil for the people of Shepparton. 500 people came along.

"I also volunteer for Red Cross' In Search of Safety program. We go into schools to talk to primary-school children about what it means to be a refugee or asylum seeker; what it's like to go through those experiences.

"Why is it important to give back to the community? I live in a community that helped me grow, gave so much to me and helped me get to where I am today -it's just the least I could do. I think it should be an important thing for everybody.

"'Why do you do what you do?' is probably the most asked question I get. To me, it's like common sense. Well, why wouldn't you do it?"

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

[**** Image of 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

[****Image of Ali from Brisbane****] 
Ali from Brisbane: "I just wanted to give something back to Australian society"
[****Image of Elaheh from Melbourne****]  
Elaheh from Melbourne: "This country and its people helped to make me stronger"

[****Image of Tara from Adelaide****] 
Tara from Adelaide: "It's about giving people hope"
[****Image of Simon from Canberra****]  
Simon from Canberra: "Cooking for the community is my passion"


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.


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