'It Takes a Village' helps recent arrivals from Afghanistan make the most of their new life in Australia
In an outer suburb of Perth, WA, a group of mums and young children gather to play games, draw and paint, sing and dance. It could be any kinder, except all these families have recently arrived from Afghanistan, and are facing the challenges of culture shock and isolation in the unfamiliar suburbs of Perth. This is ‘It Takes a Village’, a service run by Save the Children’s 54 reasons to support newly arrived families from Afghanistan.
The program helps the families connect with each other, access community services, and get their children school ready, so they can make the most of the opportunities offered by their new life in Australia.
The service directly addresses the children’s rights as newly arrived migrants, supporting their right to assistance as refugees and their right to quality education to help them thrive in their new home. Moreover, learning and developing through safe, supported play is every child’s right, and is crucial to their cognitive, social and emotional health.
Children have the chance to play and develop the skills to be school-ready, while mums can support each other
through connections made in the playgroup.
It Takes a Village provides support to the families through three different, but interconnected services, starting with a playgroup for mums and kids.
Callan, Regional Manager for 54 reasons in Perth explains,“We have the supported playgroup for zero to five years, and that's using our Play2Learn model, that is really about bringing families together, that social interaction and learning off each other, and also making connections. So, outside the playgroup families can connect and also support each other.”
The second service is integrated into the playgroup sessions, as Callan says, “During those playgroups we take the opportunity to work with our families to deliver some life skills classes, which is anything from using the public transport system, how to obtain a driver's licence, volunteering, or employment opportunities. But a critical element is navigating the visa requirements that a lot of families have to face, with hopefully achieving permanent residency.”
“It's really amazing to see the progress of families as they become more confident through those social interactions
and the work we do.” - Callan, Perth Regional Manager for 54 reasons.
The third element of the service involves in-depth, one-on-one sessions with the parents. That can cover anything from helping them feel welcome in the suburb they're living in, to counselling to support positive family functioning.
“It's great to see the progress the families make from just taking that first step in the door, then realising they can interact with others who have been through the same process. It's really wonderful to see the progress as they become more confident through those social interactions and the work we do. Actually, we've seen some people progressing, to four or five years down the track actually working with us in the program. It is absolutely amazing”, says Callan.
Melina, now a Bi-Cultural Worker with It Takes a Village, is one of those mums who started out attending the playgroups when she first arrived from Afghanistan. She explains, “It really helps the children that I'm one of the playgroup mothers. When I was a mum from that playgroup, my children didn't know how to play, how to paint, how to share with other children. They learn how to share, how to paint, and they just make them prepare for school. Then they were ready for school. For these children now, the benefit I had from that playgroup, now I'm telling all these mums who is coming here.”
“The best thing in my role is to help someone to get better, to be happier. I'm just helping with the things
they need and we have a little bit experience with.” - Melina, Bi-Cultural Support Worker with It Takes a Village.
Hawa, a Support Worker with the service, also finds her own experience as a newly arrived migrant from Somalia helps her connect with the mums and children. As she explains, “in my own experience my biggest challenge is the language barrier, cultural differences, and just everything new. It's just completely different lifestyle living in Australia and where we come from…Most of parents are isolated, they don't have family here, they don't know much people. So, once they're here (in the service), they talk to other people…other mothers and socialise. And also, they learn those basic life skills and how to bring up children in different way…they may be a beautiful parent, but it's completely different way of bringing up kids in Australia. So, it helps them in many ways.”
“The best thing about my job is seeing the family smiling, coming to the playgroup, and children growing and their confidence.
I look forward to every morning I come to work.” - Hawa, Support Worker at It Takes a Village.
Hawa continues, “The parents, they always talk to us and they tell us how the program has helped them and how they're grateful that we are there for them, and how their kids are doing. They say, ‘Thank you for providing this service, it's really helpful.’ And some of them bring others and they tell, ‘Oh, you know, I benefit from this program, come.’ Yeah, so it's beneficial for whole community, not for just one person.”
'It Takes a Village' is delivered by 54 reasons, a part of the Save the Children Australia Group.
Photos: Dave Walters / Save the Children.