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12 Dec 2019


SSI expresses appreciation for volunteers’ and collaborators’ profound contribution to communities

SSI Community Appreciation Awards recipients (from top, clockwise): Colyton Collective, Shyamla Eswaran with SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis, and Shazia Mia-Duman with Shyamla Eswaran

The awards, announced by SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis at the conclusion of SSI’s Annual General Meeting on November 28, recognise people whose actions have made a profound and sustained positive impact on the lives of the communities SSI works with.

Each year, SSI draws on the contributions of hundreds of volunteers to deliver services to vulnerable communities. During 2018-19, more than 250 active volunteers contributed approximately $3.4 million in time to the communities SSI supports.

“That sounds like a lot,” said Ms Roumeliotis, “but actually the social impact volunteers and supporters have on SSI clients and their value working with our programs is priceless. We are extremely grateful for their ongoing contributions to the community.”

Present to receive their awards were New Beginnings Festival Ambassador Shyamla Eswaran, Welcome2Sydney Ambassador Shazia Mia-Duman, and Community Hub volunteers at Colyton Public School.

Ms Eswaran specialises in cultural dance and has toured her workshops and solo shows to regional and remote areas around Australia since 2013, often making news along the way for speaking out against racism and cultural assimilation, and emphasising the need for a more open dialogue and nuanced understanding of race and culture within Australia.

She performed at this year’s New Beginnings Festival with the amazing Bindi Bosses, an urban Indian performance company that provides a platform for South Asian artists to collaborate and share stories of mixed cultural upbringing and heritage through fusion dance.

“The Colyton Collective” is a group of Community Hub volunteers at Colyton Public School. The women dedicate their time, energy and warm, loving open arms to people who enter the Community Hub.

With the skilled leadership and guidance from their Hub leader, Lisa Gobo, they have created a welcoming and inclusive environment for all.

Their extraordinary culinary skills ensure that there is always a feast of international fare prepared with love for community members to enjoy. As a collective, they have created a special environment that exemplifies the welcome that Australia has to offer.

Welcome to Sydney aims to encourage newcomers to explore and develop a sense of belonging. Hosted by volunteer Ambassadors, welcome activities include social, cultural and recreational activities that match individual interests. Shazia Mia-Duman joined the Welcome2Sydney team of Ambassadors in May 2019.

In general, Ambassadors are only required to commit once a month for an activity. Ms Mia-Duman has at times committed three to four times a month to Welcome2Sydney on top of regular text messages and coffee with participants. She also attended other SSI events such as the City to Surf, where she carried everyone’s bags and kept them safe.

Ms Mia-Duman used her personal connections to promote SSI’s strategic goals, connecting SSI’s fundraising team with her employer (one of the 10 major donors in Australia) and connecting SSI’s RESP team with employment opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers. She also helped to secure gratuity tickets and the support of the Western Sydney Giants (AFL) for Welcome2Sydney.

Two award recipients, former Fairfield Police Superintendent Peter Lennon and Armidale Sanctuary, were unable to attend the presentation.

Armidale Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement, formed in 2003, is a not-for-profit organisation staffed entirely by volunteers. It aims to assist individuals and families who are seeking or have obtained resettlement on humanitarian grounds.

Since SSI established services in Armidale, Armidale Sanctuary has been one of the most valued local community partners, and has collaborated in many areas, including: informal support for newly arrived families in the home and community, assisting with airport arrivals, the coordination of a Bike Safety Day, coordinating a bike drive among the Ezidi community, financially supporting three Ezidi children to attend Armidale Community Preschool, excursions to Uralla, Armidale Pine Forest and a local farm, organising a Jillian Triggs visit and lecture in Armidale, and the introduction of a home reading program.

Superintendent Lennon established a community engagement initiative, Coffee With A Cop, as a strategy to build rapport between uniformed officers and members of the local Fairfield community. The initiative has been tremendously successful and adopted across most parts of NSW.

He also led broader strategies for NSW Police on how NSW Police can better engage members of culturally and linguistically diverse communities, being both an asset and advocate for newcomers. He retired this year after 40 years of esteemed service.

Superintendent Lennon sent his apologies and expressed his appreciation for SSI and the work it did in the community and its ongoing work with NSW Police to ensure communities were safe.

This was essential cooperation, he said.

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