Kind-hearted residents to welcome refugees

Published 12:00pm 17 June 2023

Kind-hearted residents to welcome refugees
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

A group of kind-hearted locals will help a refugee family from Guatemala settle into their new life in the Moreton Bay Region when they arrive in July.

The group, known as Moreton Bay Refugee Friends, will support the family for their first 12 months by helping them learn English, connecting them with education and community groups, opening bank accounts, buying new clothes, navigating public transport, grocery shopping, finding jobs, obtaining driver’s licences and applying for government services.

They will also help find temporary accommodation for the family and then hopefully something more long-term.

Moreton Bay Refugee Friends co-ordinator Helen Sheppard says the group is made up of 11 people who simply want to make a difference.

“Moreton Bay Refugee Friends are a mix of local people with one thing in common; they are horrified by the plight of refugees and want to do something that makes a difference,” Helen says.

“There has been minimal media coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Guatemala – it is currently one of the most dangerous places to live.

“Corruption and extreme gang violence, threats, extortion, persecution and sexual violence have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in search of safety and a better life for their families.”

After fleeing their home one night, the family has spent the past few years living in a refugee camp in a bordering country.

“Imagine your home being so unsafe that your family can no longer live there,” Helen says.

“Overnight, you, your spouse and your children become refugees, travelling thousands of kilometres until you reach safety – a refugee camp in a bordering country.

“You remain displaced there for years. Your children remember no other life and schooling is sporadic.

“Then one day, you receive the news you have been waiting for. Your family has been granted a visa and soon, you’ll be flying across the world and landing in Australia.”

The family will be welcomed by the group when they arrive at Brisbane Airport before being driven home to the Moreton Bay Region.

“We will support them daily – practically, emotionally and financially over the course of the year,” Helen explains.

“Right now, we are fundraising and looking for assistance from the local community.”

One way they have been fundraising is by selling honey which was generously donated.

Tax-deductible donations can also be made here.

You can follow Moreton Bay Refugee Friends on Facebook or email the group to receive regular updates on other ways you can help, including donations of essential goods, accommodation, employment opportunities and other networking.

The group's email address is [email protected]

Kind-hearted residents to welcome refugees

Group formed under new government scheme

Moreton Bay Refugee Friends is part of a new Federal Government scheme called the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot, which was announced in December 2021.

As part of this pilot program, groups of five or more ordinary Australians can sponsor a family who are referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as refuges in urgent need of resettlement.

The program is run by Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, a registered charity with deductible gift recipients (DGR) status.

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