Education is something many Australians take for granted. But not Sajeda Bahadurmia. The young refugee has lacked access to formal education for much of her 29 years – an absence she is quickly making up for, driven by a desire to give her children a better life.
Ms Bahadurmia with two of her children.
“In the country I came from – Burma – I didn’t know about study because education was not very valued there. So when I came here, I realised education was important and that’s why I’m studying English at Navitas at the moment. Hopefully after, I’ll be able to get some qualifications from TAFE and get a good job. I’d like to be a cook or a beautician,” she said.
The big factor driving Ms Bahadurmia’s educational ambitions is her six kids, who range in age from three months to 14 years.
“I want to take responsibility for helping my kids become good people who can give back to the community,” she said. “I need to study myself so, for example, I can tell whether my children are doing their homework or not. I’m taking my own education seriously so that I can be a good mother.”
Ms Bahadurmia is from the Rohingya people – an ethnic minority in the predominantly Buddhist country of Burma. Along with her husband and children, Ms Bahadurmia left her village in 2013 and undertook a hazardous journey spanning thousands of kilometres to seek refuge.
“All my life we were abused and suffered a lot. When I reached Australia I felt like I was finally in a safe place and I would be happy from now on,” she said.
While awaiting the outcome of her application for refugee status, Ms Bahadurmia started volunteering, becoming a regular chef and contributor at SSI’s Community Kitchen – a fortnightly event where people seeking asylum connect with their peers and community members over a free meal and other activities.
“I was inspired by all of the case workers at SSI and the way they treated me. I wanted to do something and be happy helping someone else. I wanted to give something back to Australia,” she said.
“When I went to Community Kitchen, I met people from different cultures and countries, and I felt good there. I felt like I could learn something from them and I could also explain my culture to them. It helps everyone to learn about each other.”
While Ms Bahadurmia is now safe in Australia, family and friends who remain overseas are never far from her thoughts.
“I’m happy but I’m thinking about the people who are suffering in my country,” she said.
Aid workers on the ground in Burma are one of the main humanitarian lifelines for the Rohingya people. August 19 marks World Humanitarian Day – a time to acknowledge the risks these workers take to help people like Ms Bahadurmia and to mobilise everyday people to advocate for a better world.
Click here for more information about how you can mark this important occasion.
SSI has helped 22,000 refugees settle in Australia since 2011. Please help us support refugees, and make a donation.