John Sandy: I went through it, I lived it and now I want to help other people

Upon being appointed to the role of Project Liaison Officer with DARA, John Sandy felt sure he’d been given an opportunity to think differently about how to best support refugees and other marginalised individuals settling into our communities.

“It is most important that they become confident and hopeful about their future,” John said.

“They need to build up their self-esteem so that they can approach their fellow Australians to enquire about jobs and engage with the community

“They need to be reassured that they’re welcome and that they can make a real contribution to Australian life. It is my role to direct them to other services where they can find help for housing, education, employment, transportation, goods and services.”

John notes that a lot of what motivates him in his work with DARA comes from his own experience as a refugee: “leading up to war, my experience of seven years teaching primary school children geared me to being concerned about helping others.

“The trauma that led up to my becoming a refugee and being separated from my wife, my family, my parents and my whole way of life - I went through it, I lived it and I want to help other people feel welcome in their new home the way I was helped when I first came to Australia.

“Becoming a refugee was not something that I chose and is the hardest thing that I ever had to go through,” John recounts.

“Knowing the hardship that these families have been through drives me strongly to help them succeed in their new home. My life is enriched by helping to make their dreams a reality.”

This motivation, John feels, has helped him to successfully establish and support a number of collaborative programs across the community services sector. These include: The Multicultural Youth Group, The Refugee Bike Safety Project, The Beach Safety Workshop, The Soccer Workshop, The Men’s Program/Capacity Building and more.

“I have put together a very practical and effective networking system, establishing and building strong relationships with people of marginalised backgrounds in the community. [I hope this] gives those in need connections to services in turn relaying a sense of hope and belonging,” John says of his achievements.

John has no plans of stopping there.

For the future, he hopes to continue to build on all the refugee programs already in their initial stages at DARA and expand his network even further by establishing stronger relationships with the Newcastle Jets, Surf Lifesaving NSW, the University of Newcastle, NSW Police, local churches and mosques and other schools and local corporations.

“Probably most significant would be to make connections with employers to employ some of our long-term unemployed people and create opportunities for the young who came to our city in the early stages of resettlement and are now on the threshold of finishing their schooling.”

For those looking to volunteer with DARA John says: “I would recommend it to any person who enjoys helping others and likes the challenge of understanding other languages and cultures.”

He adds that there are sometimes difficult times but says: “the good times far outweigh the bad”.

If you would like to volunteer with DARA click here.

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Alexander Foster

Alexander Foster is the Digital Communications Officer in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle