Due to the success of ASANS forum in March 2019 MECA proposed to implement a story sharing method for 2020 Harmony Week. Harmony Week is a time to celebrate Australian multiculturalism, and the successful integration of migrants into our community. In order to move from thin multiculturalism to thick multiculturalism, we need to connect with each other openly, honestly and courageously.
Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. However, once they are in Australia we believe that they are the new Australians with refugee experience. The language we use is critical in nurturing the sense of belonging to call Australia home. As settlement service providers we have responsibility to showcase the strength of the new Australians and also walk alongside them through the process of settlement. The end goal is to help the new Australians to be established which is beyond settlement. In June 2020 Refugee Week MECA, Sydwest and Blacktown Council organised a virtual online cultural cooking and poetry reciting event. The food was delicious & the poems were inspiring.
MECA’s Citizenship program is one of the most popular programs led by energetic and very committed volunteers; Karen Colley, Hanna Shamoka and Layla Haddad. The English language was a challenge for Hanna and Layla when they arrived in Australia. However, through encouragement and engagement, they have improved their English language skills and now are the co-facilitators with Karen to coordinate and run the Citizenship class. MECA believes in the importance of mentoring others to take leadership. The established Australians mentoring the new Australians. Karen has been a great mentor and support to Hanna and Layla so that they can step forward into leadership. MECA currently runs Citizenship classes three times a week due to the high demand. MECA would like to say thank you to Karen, Hanna and Layla for their ongoing support to MECA and the community.
MECA Garden was established in partnership with Planting Seeds to create a space where community members and groups can come together to participate in activities that encourage harmony, cooperation and a sense of belonging amongst those involved. The MECA Garden is open to any member of the public. The SEED Program was funded by the Australian Department of Human Services ‘Fostering Integration’ grant.
The program consisted of a) building an organic community garden, b) designing and running a training program.
The training program consisted aimed to inspire participants to grow food and start small garden-related sustainable businesses.
After building the community garden on the MECA premises in June and July of 2019, the garden provided the space for TAFE run Horticulture classes on Mondays for 16 weeks, and 11 sustainable food and business workshops on Wednesday afternoons. The second cohort of classes and workshops started in February 2020.
The program is helping participants improve their English, teaching participants new skills that they can use in a future business, improving mental health and decreasing social isolation by creating connections between people in the community, improving physical health by encouraging gardening and healthy eating from the garden, as well as educating participants about their study and career options in Australia.
Take a look at this video showing our current educational program and some of the people involved
In August 2019 we were very grateful when The Living Room TV Show Team from Channel 10 were kind enough to expand and build the community garden so we can engage even more community members. The Living Room team transformed MECA’s run-down garden space into a welcoming, inspiring and educational space. Our community members who come to MECA enjoy spending time in the garden. They feel calm and relaxed improving their wellbeing. A big thank you goes to the Living Room TV Show Team and MECA’s Manager, Amie Hope for her leadership.