SSI organises a broad array of events and activities that give our clients, particularly community-based asylum seekers, opportunities to link with others. These events and activities provide ways for people to connect with others in similar situations, and with other organisations that can provide assistance, and help clients feel a sense of belonging. Here are some of SSI’s Community Engagement initiatives:
Volunteers and SSI staff serving asylum seekers at Community Kitchen.
SSI’s Community Kitchen is a fortnightly social day out for asylum seeker clients, which began in August 2013. Thanks to the help of volunteer cooks and assistants, up to 250 clients attend Auburn Centre for Community to learn how to prepare, and then eat, a nutritious meal. It also provides our clients a chance to interact with others by getting involved in soccer, cricket or table tennis, playing chess and other games and watching and participating in music activities.
The Community Kitchen has provided an innovative way for community groups and leaders to engage with asylum seekers who live in the community: they often prove food for the feast or hampers to take home. It has become a space where clients use their skills to benefit their peers. For instance, a former barber has offered free haircuts, and others have led guitar workshops, run craft sessions and taekwondo demonstrations.
Playtime multicultural playgroup
In April 2014, SSI established Playtime, a weekly two-hour playgroup, to provide opportunities for meaningful social interaction to our female asylum seeker and refugee clients with pre-school age children. These women, who mostly have little English, often also lack social networks and face financial barriers to taking part in community activities. So while the initiative has been beneficial for the children, the most significant benefits have come for the mothers. Playtime is a safe, women-and-children-only environment where they can make friends, talk about motherhood, engage in recreational activities and have a break from their children while SSI staff and volunteers engage them in structured play.
Traditional Mhendi hand painting is one relaxing activity at Playtime.
A community health nurse from NSW Refugee Health Service has been attending Playtime to provide one-on-one health consultations. There has been a great deal of support offered by representatives from community groups who have presented on various topics. Examples include: facilitated English classes; demonstrated sewing and knitting techniques by an Embroiderers’ Guild member; and wildlife experts have shared knowledge about native insects. SSI bilingual staff members assist by interpreting the information presented into the clients’ languages.
Many of SSI’s asylum seeker and refugee clients love sport. However, due to language barriers, a lack of funds to pay club registration fees, and few social connections, they can find it difficult to join teams. In response to these issues, SSI has assisted clients to get involved in sport.
SSI clients who play soccer for Newington Gunners.
In March 2014 a group of SSI clients formed a social soccer team. They faced some initial challenges – not having enough money for registration fees and gear, for instance – but with support from SSI, the team gained sponsorship and were welcomed in to the Newington Gunners Soccer Club. The team went on to win their grand final.
Other sporting activities facilitated for clients by SSI are tennis lessons for youths and cricket clinics.