Theresa Saade, from Lebanon, is studying for a double diploma in counselling and community service in Sydney and has been completing her student placement as a Social Support Volunteer at SSI . Ms Saade, who lives with extended family in Sydney, said she felt her volunteer role supporting newly arrived refugees with their settlement was valuable for SSI clients as well as her self.
“I’m supposed to come here [to the Liverpool MRC] one day a week, but I do more. It’s addictive,” she said. “This is the sector I want to work in.”
“I usually go with clients to the doctor, to be a link. I take them to medical centres for scans; to Centrelink; to hospital. I take them by public transport; show them where things are; take them on a [exploration excursion] the day before an appointment. I interpret for them.”
Theresa says the experience of supporting others provides a learning curve for her, since she has been in Australia for just 10 months.
“In Lebanon you can go straight to a specialist, but here you have to get a referral,” Theresa said. “I’m learning these things.”
And Theresa thinks learning alongside her clients helps her empathise with them.
“If you’ve lived what they’re living, you can understand it more,” she said.
Theresa said supporting clients could be challenging: “for instance, I help [an old man], Jawad. It’s challenging to teach older clients. But it’s rewarding when you find a way to help.
“It’s like a labour [giving birth]: challenging, but the result – seeing them smile – is worth it. They thank you like you’ve done so much for them.”