Ucan2 Active – Banansio’s story
A Ucan2 Active snapshot
Banansio is a 26 year old man living in Melbourne’s western suburbs. He enjoys playing soccer, going to the gym and meeting new people. Like all 26 year old men he has dreams and aspirations, although his story is a little different. Banansio came to Australia as a refugee. He was born in Sudan, and is of South Sudanese background. He has been living in Australia for 3 years now, however his journey here was not easy. At age 15, Banasio was kidnapped and lost contact with his family. He spent time in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in Australia and reuniting with some of his family members.
Banansio is an intelligent and energetic young man. His positive attitude and boisterous laugh is infectious, but finding work has been challenging. Despite having spent time working in a number of casual jobs, including as a bricklayer and at a meat works, he struggles to find consistent, ongoing employment. Unfortunately, Banansio’s story is all too familiar for many young men of South Sudanese backgrounds in Australia. It’s estimated that more than 24,000 South Sudanese are living in Australia. This ethnic group is the fastest-growing migrant community. However, this community is also among the most disadvantaged, with an unemployment rate of 28.6% (the national unemployment rate is 5.7%). Cited from The Conversation, September 19th, 2016.
Kudzanayi Chirenje works at the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (also known as Foundation House). He has been delivering the Ucan2 Active program to Banansio and a number of other refugee young people at AMES Australia in Footscray for the past 10 weeks. The Ucan2 Active program is a settlement and work readiness program that facilitates and supports the social inclusion of newly arrived young people from refugee backgrounds between the ages of 16 and 25. The program assists with recovery from trauma and settlement in Australia. It builds on young people’s strengths and assists them in becoming ‘job ready’ in an Australian context.
“Benansio has been a pleasure to get to know. He is such a dedicated young man, and the transformation in his confidence over the past 10- weeks has been amazing” says Chirenje. “When you are consistently being told ‘no, sorry you didn’t get that job’ or ‘no, you are not ready to study in that course’ it can take its toll”. Banansio knows this all too well. “Last year, I applied for a course in civil construction and I was told my English wasn’t good enough. Since then, I have studied hard and Ucan2 has really helped with that. Ucan2 Active was really good. Everyone was welcoming and I met a lot of young people my age, which was good for me” said Banansio. “The way they teach us is really easy and I’ve learned a lot of things, like how to do better at job interviews and understanding the expectations of Australian employers”.
The Ucan2 program is a partnership between Foundation House, AMES Australia and the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY). The program is currently funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and this has allowed many more young people to take part in the program. It’s an extensive program, and includes a combination of classroom group work and work experience opportunities at companies such as Coles and other well-known businesses. All throughout the program, the young people are supported by volunteers, many of whom are of a similar age to the young people themselves.
“We know there is a need for a program like this” says Chirenje. “Every day, I come into contact with young people of refugee backgrounds who are finding it difficult to access work or study. The young people I come across have so much to offer. Sometimes, they just need a little more support. It’s about giving them a confidence boost and creating connections, both in the community and directly with work places”.
And what is Banansio up to now? He’s been accepted into that civil construction course, 12 months after he was initially rejected. He’s now able to focus on this dreams and have aspirations, just like any other 26 year old male in Australia.
The Ucan2 Active program will be delivered at various locations across Melbourne, including Hoppers crossing, Footscray and Dandneong in October until the end of the year. This program is open to all young people between the ages of18 and 25 of a refugee background. For more information or to register for this free program see the details below.
Contact: Gillian Kerr, Ucan2 Program Coordinator – Foundation House
Phone: 0437 358 832
Dates: The 10 week program starts in October.