Xavier College student DOMINIC BEECH reflects on the profound impact of meeting participants from our Settlement Program during his Christian Service placement with Jesuit Social Services.

A week with Jesuit Social Services gave me a beautiful insight into the work being done in our community. Until now, I hadn’t had much, if any, first-hand experience with social work and community organisations. Sure, I’d heard about great

A participant and volunteer from our Flemington Homework Club

causes that we ought to give a gold coin to, and the ones we run sausage sizzles for, but seeing and being involved yourself is something else.

Visiting an English Language school for people seeking asylum in Preston had a profound impact on me. Asylum seekers and “boat people”, (both dehumanising terms) are a contentious issue that many of us tend to be disconnected from, relying on media for any knowledge. The four of us were given the chance to meet some women from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon who’ve come to Australia seeking a new life. Three arrived in Australia by plane and one recounted her shocking boat trip. They kindly opened-up to us about their struggles, and to hear their stories of oppression and pain in their home countries was nothing short of heartbreaking – horrific gender prejudice, continuous civil conflict and a lack of the many opportunities Australians enjoy daily. When asked what they loved most about our home, all four women shared a love and appreciation for their newfound freedom. To meet people from across the globe, from drastically different circumstances gave all of us an invaluable insight and empathy we’d not have otherwise felt. These women were so welcoming and open to us, laughing and joking as if we were regulars at the class, that I’m inclined to think we should be just as welcoming in return.

Along with the thousands of people who they help day in, day out, we have Jesuit Social Services to thank. This English Language school was just one of the life-changing initiatives they run – from children’s mentoring, to Support after Suicide to community gardens. The list goes on. One short week with Jesuit Social Services has shown me just how much needs to be done in our communities, and how we all can do our part.