Monique Perusco, Jesuit Social Services’ Manager of Social and Community Services in Western Sydney, has known Makeeta since the very beginnings of the Willmot Community Hub in 2017. Makeeta initially came to the Hub because she was at a crisis point in her life, having experienced family violence and associated trauma. She began volunteering at the Hub, and now five years on, she is a Community Development Coordinator and runs several much loved programs with local residents.
Monique reflects on Makeeta’s journey at the Hub and their relationship. “Makeeta is an extraordinary woman. She is determined, and when she first came to the Hub, she knew she was looking for a connection with her community – initially to help her and her family and to find a place where she could belong and thrive. She came to the Hub searching for something, and when she found it here she proceeded to make herself indispensable to us,” she says.
“I think our success in Willmot has actually got a lot to do with Makeeta. She has held us accountable, but she has also just walked with us and shared her life; I have learnt a lot from her. She is very generous with her story; she will sit me down and tell me about her life, so I can understand her better, but also to say, ‘Listen to what it’s like for me and for others here’. By doing this she allows me an intimate insight into life in Willmot.
“Makeeta’s understandings have also helped us in informing our work at the Hub. Willmot is a very disadvantaged community, but she has showed us there is more than what appears on the surface. She patiently walks me through and gives me the opportunity to gain a better understanding of life here. In this kind of work, it is important to have somebody beside you who understands things so much more deeply than you do.
“We have accompanied each other through this journey. I am a guest in her community. And I feel as though she is enculturating, guiding me, helping me understand and making me more useful because she’s guiding me in the culture of this community and being better at what I do.
“In the five years I have known Makeeta, she has gone from strength to strength. The power of secure employment and being supported and loved where you work has been transformative for her. Our relationship isn’t a one-sided thing either; she brings so much richness to my life. Makeeta has taught me so much.”