Sunday, March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. To mark the day, we share two inspiring stories of the women we work with across our program areas.

Akee’s sense of freedom 

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.

Kim’s happiness and joy settling into a new country

Along with her husband and children, Kim Hong left her native Vietnam and immigrated to Australia to find a better life. Yet for Kim and many other new arrivals, creating a new life in Australia was a difficult and stressful experience.

Her family couldn’t guarantee a roof over their heads or find a school to teach their children. They felt unstable in their new country. That is until they came into contact with Jesuit Social Services’ Settlement program.

“When I came to Australia, life was very difficult for me. My husband and I and our children were all cramped up in a bungalow,” she says, describing the uncertainty of her family’s living situation.

“Ever since coming into contact with this organisation in the community, it has brought not only myself but many people great happiness and joy in settling in a new country, because through this organisation I have been helped to deal with all difficulties,” including English classes and finding a place of residence.

Kim takes comfort in knowing that her family has the support of Jesuit Social Services, whose Settlement program provides new arrivals with the information and tools needed to feel settled in their new environment.

Kim has learnt “about health, about parenting, about the legal and justice system here, about law,” she said. If she should ever “encounter [trouble] in the future,” she is now aware of “what sort of legal services are out there in the community that can help me.”

As a result of receiving support from Settlement services, Kim believes her view of Australia has changed for the better. “I find that this country is a very good country towards other people from other countries, especially new arrivals,” Kim said.

If you have “settled in the country…and integrated into that community, you call that your home.”