Like many new arrivals, Akee faced considerable challenges when she arrived in Australia. Originally from Tibet, she came to Australia to join her husband after living in exile in India for seven years.
“I came here on the partner visa, so I was not eligible to receive services that other people get. Through the help of Jesuit Social Services we got temporary housing and access to doctors, so we are now quite settled,” Akee said.
Akee hasn’t been able to find paid employment yet because of her English skills, but with the support of Jesuit Social Services’ Settlement Program she has begun attending English classes two days a week. “Very gradually my English is improving.”
Through the Settlement Program, Akee was connected with the Salvation Army community garden, located a few streets back from Sunshine’s shopping district. The garden provides recent arrivals with an opportunity to participate in their community and feel a sense of belonging. The garden has become a place of enjoyment and community participation for Akee. “I have an interest in gardening, it suits me as a hobby. Nicole (a Jesuit Social Services Settlement Support worker) brought me here and I started working and now I am enjoying it here.”
Through her interaction with the Settlement Program, Akee noticed “that the people are very welcoming and very respectful and outspoken and caring and smiling. They ask questions, like what kind of problems you have, and try to solve that problem or issues that we are facing.”
Through the community garden, her English classes, her home with her husband and the small garden plot that has become her hobby, Akee says she feels a “sense of freedom” that defines her experience in Australia.