When compared with the very tangible, ‘hard’ forms of refugee resettlement support such as accommodation, financial and language services, providing an atmosphere of welcome may seem like secondary priority. But in actual fact, forming community connections, feeling a sense of social inclusion and a sense of belonging are essential conditions for a quality life. Actively nurturing these values is important for all of us – but for people from refugee background, who have been uprooted from their communities and support networks, and have often experienced trauma and loss – it is especially critical.
Indeed, research on the experiences of refugees resettled in an Australian community has indicated that feeling ‘a sense of belonging’ is essential for wellbeing. Without this, people from refugee background can experience feelings of isolation and may develop mental health issues as they cope with past trauma and prolonged stress.
Furthermore, the study outlines that programs and policies designed to promote belonging (such as what SCARF does) can only be effective if embedded within a broader socially inclusive society. So, crafting the best resettlement programs for people from refugee background only works if the broader community is on board!
So, what can you do to help foster a sense of belonging and social inclusion for former refugees in the Illawarra?
You can volunteer:
SCARF aims to provide as many opportunities for community connections as possible. All of our programs are volunteer-based, meaning not only are our community members receiving those essential ‘hard’ forms of support, like English language assistance, education and tutoring, and form-filling support – but they’re also being connected to the broader community. These relationships often turn into friendships, and are usually a lovely, rewarding experience for all people involved. Learn all about volunteering at SCARF here.
If you’re time-poor, but still want to help:
Becoming a SCARF volunteer is one way to assist us in fostering an atmosphere of welcome – but we know that many people are just too time poor to commit to a weekly appointment. For these people we have two options:
- SCARF’s ‘Coffee and Conversation’ events: Every Wednesday between 10.30am and 12pm, SCARF hosts an informal group meet-up where people from refugee and non-refugee background can meet, chat and practice english. We provide coffee, tea, and light snacks. You don’t have to commit to coming weekly, just drop in whenever you’re free. Learn more here.
- Social Hangouts at Sifters: Recently SCARF has launched bi-monthly Social Hangout Nights at Sifters. These free events are an opportunity for the SCARF and broader community to listen to great live music, taste multicultural cuisine, meet new friends and hang out with old ones. Learn more here.
Becoming a SCARF volunteer or coming along to one of our social events will indeed be helping to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion for people from refugee background – but it will also benefit you. Life-long friendships and extraordinary learning experiences are common occurrences within the SCARF community!