Welcoming the stranger
The St Vincent de Paul Society has a long history of helping refugees and people seeking asylum. Catholic social teaching places a special onus on our organisation to help those who seek protection from persecution, having fled war, injustice or intolerance.
The Society offers a ‘hand up’ to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community. This includes supporting people who may have experienced an array of difficult challenges when seeking protection in Australia, including torture or trauma, being separated from family members and living through the detention system.
The Asylum Seeker Program (ASP) is one of a wide range of support services that the Society runs to assist these vulnerable groups.
Asylum Seeker Program
The ASP works with people seeking asylum that are living in the community in New South Wales (NSW) and experiencing financial hardship. The program supports vulnerable individuals and families, who may be at risk of homelessness as they have no income and have minimal support options available to them.
The ASP provides financial assistance, case management and wrap around support. The program focuses on supporting those who are at the end of the Refugee Status Determination process. It provides the assistance that is necessary for people seeking asylum to maintain their dignity and autonomy while they wait for their refugee status to be resolved.
Whilst Vinnies runs the ASP program specifically in NSW there are very similar refugee support programs running in other states, see our Find Help section or contact Vinnies in your state to find out how they can help you.
It starts with a SPARK
SPARK is an holistic family based program of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW’s Support Services. SPARK supports newly arrived families of migrant, refugee and asylum seeker background in their settlement in South West Sydney. SPARK work in partnership with schools, other community services, and with local community members as volunteers to deliver programs.
SPARK inspires inclusive communities by creating opportunities for newly arrived and settled families to meet and build meaningful connections. The key aim is that families and children from a refugee, asylum seeker and migrant background settle well. They are able to fully participate in the community’s social, educational and economic life, and so are less vulnerable to exclusion and discrimination, social and health issues, and poverty and disadvantage.
SPARK’s work includes:
- Providing children with educational, aspiration building and recreational programs
- Providing parent programs, workshops and events that offer opportunities to build educational and language skills, increase social connection and provide support and referrals
- Building the capacity of the community to support the settlement of newly arrived families. We do this by partnering with and offering training to local schools, community organisations and bilingual workers.
To watch a video about SPARK, click on the photograph
Anushri volunteers to help other newly arrived refugees
In the Community SPARKs program, new families and volunteers come together to establish networks and friendships within the school community. Bilingual workers assist parents to improve their English; understand the Australian school system; address settlement issues; and learn skills to negotiate living in a new country.
Anushri first came to a Community SPARKs session wanting to meet other parents at her child’s school and to practice her English. Meeting every week, the group discussed life in their new home; their hopes and aspirations for a better future for their children.
During this time, Anushri continued to search for work, with little success. Since arriving in Australia, she had completed a Diploma of Community Services and was keen to find a job in which she could give back to the community. SPARK worked with Anushri on resume-writing and job-seeking skills, and then suggested she join SPARK as a volunteer.
After completing her SPARK training, Anushri headed up a Parents Group herself. After some months in the volunteer role she secured employment in a community services organisation. Anushri credits her time with SPARK as the main reason behind her new found confidence that set her on the road to a brighter future.
Tell your story
Are you a refugee who has been helped by Vinnies? Are you a Vinnies volunteer on the ground helping those who need it the most? We would love to hear from you. Contact us at the National Council office.
We help by providing services to asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, and by advocating to government on their behalf. Our services include providing financial and information support to migrants and refugees, for example through home visitation, food and financial help, visits to detention centres, and homework centres.
Vinnies also has dedicated migrant and refugee centres and committees in some states in Australia, which coordinate activities but regardless of where you are in Australia, Vinnies offers assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Contact your state or territory office.