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22 Aug 2016


An unforgettable City2Surf for team SSI

SSI City2Surf team members Jodie, Roopa, Jasmine and Rayila (L—R)

A team of SSI staff, refugees and people seeking asylum participated in the iconic City2Surf fun run, which took them from Hyde Park in Sydney’s CBD to Bondi Beach. SSI volunteers welcomed the runners at the finish line with cheers and a beach-side picnic.

With only three weeks until donations close, the team is three-quarters of the way towards its $10,000 fundraising goal. Just $25 can help SSI provide hot meals to people seeking asylum, while $50 can facilitate sports and community activities that reduce isolation and improve mental and physical well-being. Every little bit counts.

SSI team member Roopa Patel said she hoped the group’s effort had also encouraged some people to shift their perceptions about refugees and people seeking asylum.

“Refugees need support, which anyone can offer,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a donation; it could be by volunteering, even if it’s just for one day. Every little bit helps.

“My parents were refugees, so it’s an area that’s a passion of mine, having known the challenges they faced when they arrived in the UK but also for me as a migrant who came to Australia in 2006.”

Ms Patel now calls Sydney home but can trace her roots back to India, via Uganda and the UK. Her family arrived in Uganda when it was still a British colony but, decades later, they were among the 80,000 people of Asian descent who then-President Idi Amin expelled from the country in 1972.

“Soldiers stormed into their homes and said, ‘You have to leave. Pack a small bag and just go’. My parents had little money and hardly any belongings when they arrived in the UK,” Ms Patel said.

“It was very similar to what refugees experience in Australia now but unfortunately there wasn’t an agency like SSI my parents could go to that delivered services to provide them with support.”

Ms Patel, who now works for SSI, is fundraising to support programs such as the Community Kitchen — a fortnightly social event where community members share a meal with people seeking asylum.

“When my dad recently came to visit me in Australia, he offered to cook at the Community Kitchen and he was amazed by the services being offered to newly arrived migrants,” Ms Patel said. “Dad said, ‘If we had something like this, it would have really brought the community together’. It’s different now but back in the 70s they had to build their own community.”

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