Rotary steps up to support refugee traineeship
Monday 11 November, 2013
When former President of the Rotary Club of Hoppers Crossing, Edwin Callard turned up to volunteer at Werribee Park, he admitted he didn’t know much about gardening. But what he did know was how to work with people and explain how things worked. Edwin soon found himself working with a group of young Karen refugees who were volunteering at the park, helping them improve their conversational English and demonstrating gardening equipment and techniques.
Edwin soon discovered what keen and enthusiastic workers these boys were and that one of them in particular, Bee See, was hoping to continue at the park in a paid internship. Bee Bee See Maw Kay - his full name, arrived in Australia at the age of 16 after having fled Burma with his mother and three siblings. Despite speaking very little English he managed to complete his VCE, but could not land a good job. After spending a lot of time at home alone, he began to suffer from the effects of this isolation and resulting depression.
A Karen acquaintance introduced Bee See to the volunteer program at Werribee Park being run by Parks Victoria Ranger in Charge, James Brincat. After a few months he had gained both confidence with his English and some solid horticultural skills. He was offered a traineeship in the gardens as an unpaid volunteer; working alongside park rangers to advance his horticultural skills and work place English. The Brotherhood of St Laurence offered to help out with funding for one day a week for his training, and Parks Victoria added another two days a week.
Despite this joint effort there was still a funding shortfall. Edwin contacted his former Rotary Club and asked its members if they would be interested in helping fund the traineeship for Bee Bee See. His proposal was submitted to Club President Colin Styles for presentation to the Club’s Community Committee. Its decision to help was endorsed by the Board and the Rotary Club of Hoppers Crossing met the funding shortfall.
Colin says this decision reflects the Club’s desire to engage with the different ethnic groups within the City of Wyndham, of which there are more than 100, some refugees and some not. He says the Club is keen to become more involved with the local ethnic community as a whole and funding the traineeship is a great step toward this goal.
“It’s making a contribution to the local community on a number of levels that we support; community, ethnic culture and youth. In the past we’ve done the odd working bee with different groups and organisations, but this is the first time we’ve delved into contributing ourselves in a meaningful way.
We are only 19 members but we feel we can make a difference. We see this as giving this young man a hand up not a hand out. For me it’s one of the highlights of my Rotary career and a contribution of which the Club can be justifiably proud.”
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