People volunteer for many reasons: altruism, corporate social responsibility, free time. For Naila Yousid, her experience resettling in Australia as a refugee prompted her to become a volunteer.
Naila and her husband arrived in Australia in 2013, after the couple was forced to flee their native country of Iraq.
“Initially, I was happy that I was now in a safe country, but after that, I had many things I couldn’t do because my language wasn’t good and everything here was not like our country. I was alone with my husband,” she said.
Settlement Services International (SSI) helped Naila to overcome barriers in the early days of settlement, such as navigating the unfamiliar transport system, banking and medical systems, and accessing essential services like Centrelink and Medicare.
“My case manager was helpful and she encouraged me always,” Naila said. “When I saw how hard case managers worked for the refugees and how they are patient with them, I said ‘okay, I’d like to do this’.”
An accountant by trade, Naila is now retraining to work in community services and, having completed two TAFE qualifications, she is volunteering at SSI while finishing a third.
“I visit homes, I also take refugees to register with Centrelink and Medicare, and I show them how to get transport around. I also sometimes help when they want to go to the doctor or they want to enrol in TAFE,” she said.
“When I sit with them and ask, ‘how are you?’, if I see that they are not feeling good, I tell them, ‘no – look at me!’ I tell them about my story and that I am new like them but I was encouraged by other people to do something good for myself.”
For Naila, her six months as a volunteer has changed her life.
“My volunteering encourages me to get to know people and it has helped me not to be shy,” she said. “I’ve become less shy because I realise I have to, to know what the client needs.”
In addition to improving her confidence, volunteering has also helped Naila become more patient.
“Sometimes the clients are nervous, sometimes they’re not like you culturally and don’t think similarly,” she said. “The volunteering also showed me not to judge anyone, even if their culture or religion is different, because we are all human.
"For me, volunteering is a way to give back to Australia and say thank you for giving me a place where I belong."