Often the horrors of war can seem a world away from our lives in Australia. But for Volunteer Refugee Tutoring and Community Support (VoRTCS) volunteers, helping refugees who have fled their homeland settle into a new community is all a part of the role.

The Vinnies VoRTCS program supports refugee families to take up the educational, vocational and social opportunities that exist in Australian society by pairing them with volunteer tutor groups for weekly in-home visits. VoRTCS volunteers provide assistance around overcoming language barriers, developing independence within the community and decreasing social isolation. VoRTCS was created to ensure refugees had support available to them after their initial period of settlement into their new community. Currently, the VoRTCS program is supporting over 580 refugees in the greater Brisbane region through the work of 360 volunteers.

For Sally Stubbington, VoRTCS Committee President, the program is the epitome of the Vinnies vision to offer a ‘hand up’ and not just a hand out to people in need. “It is such a privilege to assist members of our community to fulfil their potential. Our volunteers make such a difference to the lives of the families they work with, and I like to think it goes both ways – our volunteers experience and learn about different cultures and can take these experiences and knowledge back to their own communities.”

Having been involved with the program for over 10 years, Sally can attest to the difference the program makes to the refugees it supports.  “I have been a volunteer tutor with two families, one from Sudan and one from Myanmar. Both families were so much fun to work with, and over a period of time we became quite close. They would often invite us to share in their cultural activities and one tutoring session we turned up to a Burmese feast, prepared just for us!”

Sally’s tutor group recently graduated their Burmese family after realising they had achieved the aims of the program when one of the children received a school award for being the most improved student at the end of year award ceremony. “We attended the awards night because we knew what an achievement it was for her, and when she crossed the stage we were cheering and clapping with such pride. It also brought home to us just how far our family had come in the three years we had been with them.”

To find out more about VoRTCS, or to become a volunteer, please do not hesitate to contact us: info.vortcs@svdpqld.org.au or 3010 1000 or qld.vinnies.org.au/services/refugee