Shagufta Hamayun moved to Australia from Pakistan four years ago with her husband and two children but she soon felt that something wasn’t right.
Ability Links NSW participant Shagufta Hamayun and SSI Linker Seema Syed
Although she liked her new home country, Ms Hamayun couldn’t help feeling constantly sad and homesick. She missed her past life and loved ones she had left behind.
A month after her arrival, Ms Hamayun found out she was pregnant with her third child. However, far from being the beginning of a happy and exciting period, the following months turned out to be the darkest chapter of her life – a situation she says was reversed thanks to the support of her Linker, Seema, from the SSI Ability Links NSW (ALNSW) program.
ALNSW is a free program delivered by SSI that supports people with disability aged 9 to 64. Linkers work closely with their participants to plan for their future by building on their strengths and skills to lead the life they want as valued members of their community.
"I found being away from my family and my country very hard, and I started suffering from depression and anxiety," Ms Hamayun said.
"I felt so lonely and isolated that the idea of starting a new life here overwhelmed me. I even I tried to convince my husband to go back to Pakistan, but he said that everything would get better after the birth of the baby, so we stayed."
After giving birth Ms Hamayun's depression worsened and she started suffering from phobias. She was referred to a psychiatrist, but she knew that besides medical help she was in need of the human support her friends and family used to provide back home.
Ms Hamayun said she remembered her first encounter with SSI Ability Linker Seema Syed was like the first step towards her new life as the 'happy woman and happy mother' she is now.
"We met at a community centre information session and I remember how among all the ladies there she stood out as the most helpful and interested in me," Ms Hamayun said.
After Ms Hamayun explained her situation to Ms Syed – also originally from Pakistan – they decided that to overcome the feelings of loneliness and isolation she needed opportunities to meet new people. Ms Syed introduced her to different social groups and took her along to meetings linked to her interests.
At the same time, they maintained the routine of having meetings with just the two of them where they discussed Ms Hamayun's future goals and some of the positive aspects of living in Australia.
"Seema always tried her hardest to keep me busy and offer me ways to get out of the house to become involved in the community," Ms Hamayun said.
"As I engaged in more activities and met more new people, I started to feel better with myself and with my life in Australia."
Through her collaborative work with Ms Syed, Ms Hamayun successfully completed a Child Behaviour Management course, she participated in a 10-week paid internship as a child minder and enrolled in a support group especially aimed to help new arrivals in Australia.
Now an active member of the community and exuding energy, Ms Hamayun has a very clear idea of what her next goal is.
"After all the support I received from SSI Ability Links NSW, I’ve decided I also want to help people improve their lives and that’s why I’m currently studying Pathways to Community Services at TAFE," she said.
Besides studying, Ms Hamayun is also running a social group for women who might be in a similar situation as she once was.
With the support of SSI Ability Links, she created a Facebook group called 'Pakistani Women Social group in Sydney', which has over 600 members and a Whatsapp group with over 150 members. Both online groups aim to provide a platform for women with different skills to showcase their talents, organise events and exchange support and resources.
The members of the groups are encouraged to share their knowledge and experiences to help one another, including emotional and psychological help.
"I know how important it is not to feel alone," Ms Hamayun said.
"SSI Ability links NSW has been an inspiration to me and now I feel ready to give back and help other people, the same way Seema helped me."