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For Naomi Musangi, becoming a lawyer or journalist was the ultimate dream – but this all changed when she was forced to flee her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo at just nine years old.
As a small child fleeing war and corruption, Naomi and her family moved to Zimbabwe, where she was traumatised to see children her age and younger working 12-hour days to feed their families.
“We had to visit a refugee camp regularly to fill out form for our humanitarian resettlement in Australia, and that’s where I saw them,” she said.
“I remember crying on my mother’s shoulder, saying it isn’t fair for those kids.
“Then my dream changed, and I knew when I came to Australia, I would help children be free from child labour, and be free to just be kids.”
Together with her mother and siblings, Naomi’s chance of a better life came when they arrived in Australia in 2009.
“We felt as if all our dreams had come true,” she said.
“But, growing up in Australia has not always been easy. I barely spoke any English, I was bullied at school, and I felt as if no one cared.
“Fighting my way through high school, trying to learn English and my new country, I tried to find a job in Year 11.
“I received many ‘Nos’ and saw many Australian friends secure employment at the same places I had applied.
“This made me feel less of myself; I had so much doubt and low self-esteem.
“But I kept fighting and eventually began a traineeship in Hospitality, and once I finished school, I studied Community Services at TAFE.
“This opened up much more opportunities for me, helped improve my confidence to try new things and then I discovered Access Community Services.”
Naomi volunteered for the organisation’s Humanitarian Settlement Program assisting new arrivals, but never forgot her dream of working with children, so she was introduced to Access’ Multicultural Sports Club (MSC).
“This is really where my journey began. I started teaching dance to children, and although I was very shy, the team were always encouraging, welcoming and supportive,” she said.
“This made me realise I had people who believe in me and helped me become the best version of myself.
“I have improved my English speaking and writing skills, improved my confidence and become more integrated with the community around me.”
Recently, Naomi took another step on the path to her dream and enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Work at Griffith University.
While she expects it to be a challenging environment for her, she knows with the help of MSC and the wider Access organisation; she will be supported every step of the way.
“Being a part of the MSC and Access has taught me to always pursue new adventures and enabled me with the confidence to know I can give back to the community,” she said.
“Based on my experience, I truly believe people in a similar situation can benefit from engaging in sports, and consequently their community, which will show them there are people out there who believe in them.
“Having found my place in Australia, I will continue to work with my colleagues and mentor young children to find their own place.”
To find more about the Multicultural Sports Club, visit their Facebook page.
Find this original article, along with other refugee stories here.