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07 December 2018

Marymede gives - expressing the spirit of St Nicholas

CatholicCare’s Settle Well Program in Geelong has been running for several years now, but over the past year there has been a new addition to the program.

The CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Mums Program was established to provide support to the refugee mothers of students who were part of the Geelong Settle Well Program, and it has been a wonderful success. There are currently women from three different cultures – Karenni, Karen and Dari – who participate in the program.

The program runs throughout each school term, and the mothers choose what they would like to learn about based on their interests or the issues they need support with. 

In term four this year, the weekly program included a range of topics and activities including yoga, swimming, food handling tips, school information and processes, engaging with services outside of school, a CFA presentation on fire safety in the home, and a visit to the Foodbank accompanied by a dietician to learn more about healthy eating and how the mothers can access food and other forms of emergency relief. 

‘They seem to just lap up all the information in each session!’ said Assistant Principle Julie Andrews from North Geelong Secondary College, one of the schools where Geelong Settle Well is run. ‘I think one of the great things is the bond they form – that they all come together.’

Photo: Community Engagement Coordinator Jeff Wild, with Marymede Catholic College staff and students.

The spirit of giving

In the spirit of Christmas, students from Marymede Catholic College’s McCormack House rallied to donate gifts to the refugee families in the CALD Mums Program, and then the entire school took on the challenge! Students were taught about the experiences and lives of the refugees before they begun, and they were given some information about the families so that they could purchase relevant gifts. The students put so much thought into each and every present!

Eleven laundry baskets were filled (and overflowing) with gifts ready for the families, which were distributed on Thursday 6 December at the end-of-year program celebration. What better day to distribute the gifts than on the feast day of Saint Nicholas, known for his gift-giving spirit and, who may be better known as his modern counterpart Santa Claus!

One of the mothers who received gifts for her and her family, Nah Ae, is a recent refugee and understands very little English. She spent 21 years in a refugee camp, in search of security after one of her family members had been tortured. While at the camp, her house and all of her belongings were burned down, leaving her and her family with nothing. A family member in Australia was able to sponsor Nah Ae and her children to migrate here – while the suffering is gone, she mentioned that the pain is still there whenever she thinks of the past times. 

‘Life in the refugee camp was filled with uncertainty. When we arrived here, this program and all these gifts today help us to settle well.’ – Nah Ae, mother from the CALD Mums Program

The mothers and their families were grateful and excited about their gifts, and they celebrated with plenty of food and fun. North Geelong Secondary College also gave certificates to the mothers, bilingual interpreters, the school nurse, CALD youth worker, and the multicultural liaison officer for their participation and support, and they are all eager to continue the program into the new year.

Top left: Julie Andrews presenting certificates.
Top right: Jeff Wild and Sharon Collier presenting gift baskets.
Bottom left: Chris McNamara presenting gift baskets.
Bottom right: Group photo including refugee families, and staff from CatholicCare and NGSC.


Kate's Story

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