Volunteer with SSI Coffs Harbour, Paul Hemphill, uses his passion for people and Arabic language skills to make new arrivals feel welcome in their new home.
Every Friday Paul gives up his own time to help the local refugee community, from showing families around town and translating public notices, to helping write resumes and run classes on how to use smartphone calendars.
“I get a lot out of my volunteering,” said Paul.
Paul explains he has had a lifelong connection with, and passion for the Middle East and its people, having travelled throughout Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan- where many of SSI’s clients come from, he’s familiar with some of their languages, cultures, and faiths.
“It’s so good that here, in what is rural Australia, I can use my Arabic language skills and spend time helping folk from these countries settle in Australia,” said Paul.
Although Paul volunteers with the goal of assisting individuals supported by SSI, there are some activities he finds particularly special, such as taking recent arrivals to the ocean for the first time.
“I treasure taking families to the seaside when they have never seen the ocean, and watching them take off their shoes to walk on the beach and paddle in the surf.”
Not only does seeing the support he is providing make the experience worthwhile, but the according to Paul there is a great comradery between fellow volunteers.
“We have a great relationship, warm, welcoming and inclusive. I feel that they value my skills, and that they use them to the best of my ability,” he said.
“I am no substitute for the Farsi, Kurdish and Arabic speaking support workers, but when they are not to hand, and problems need sorting, I can step in with my hands-on, linguistic skills.”