12 year old Emily and 8 year old Thomas, together with mum Nicole and dad Simon, recently volunteered at the Asylum Seekers Centre. They were joined by friends Saskia (12) and Sienna (9), and their parents Natanya and Phil. Emily shares their experience:
“I have always, as a child growing up in a privileged life, cared very much about the predicament of asylum seekers. Always been curious about who they were, what they were like and how they had faced travelling on often peril filled journeys to a land they knew practically nothing about. So when my Mum suggested that we would volunteer cooking lunch for a group of asylum seekers as part of the service and support that the Asylum Seekers Centre, Newtown provides to asylum seekers across Sydney, I jumped at the opportunity.
I had no idea what to expect. Part of me was thinking about all the stereotypes put forward about asylum seekers. Another part was intrigued, concerned and excited all at the same time. We (my mum, my brother and I), along with some friends of ours had prepared a meal for twenty-five including fresh fruit. We set up in the centre’s kitchen, immediately amazing, first by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff and then by the great facilities and programs offered. We set about preparing the meal chatting to various people, asylum seekers and staff. We met just about most of them. Talked to them, shared a joke or story. The age and nationality varied dramatically, from children to older people, Chinese to Pakistani to European. Everyone got along well. When it came to mealtime, we watched everyone tuck in.
The highlight for me was meeting people, to see friendly faces everywhere. The services they offer at the ASC are amazing. I’d just like to say thank you, for the help you give to others, to the kindness and help that you offer every day. To give people the gift of that one hot meal a day is more than it seems. Something for people to look forward to, one certainty, that at midday they could go to the ASC for that hot meal, not matter anything else. The experience really opened my eyes to the world. It gave me so much back. In just two hours, I learned such an important lesson. It was an amazing experience and I would surely do it again and again.” – Emily, 12