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Nohara Odicho, recipient of the STARTTS’ 2019 NSW Humanitarian Award for a Refugee Community Worker, arrived in Australia as a refugee with her father in 2015.
Ms Odicho has since channelled her refugee lived-experience to help others in similar circumstances.
STARTTS is a specialist, non-profit organisation that helps people and communities heal the scars of torture and refugee trauma and rebuild their lives in Australia. Its refugee community worker award recognised a former refugee working on refugee issues with their own or other refugee communities.
Ms Odicho is dedicated to motivating and improving the lives of others. She started with community volunteer roles and more recently began working as a Community Engagement Officer for Legal Aid.
When Ms Odicho first arrived in Australia, she was part of Settlement Services International (SSI)’s Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP). She said that SSI’s wrap-around services supported her in her putting her best foot forward in her new home.
“SSI helped me a lot: accommodation, appointments and referral to support services including Legal Aid,” she said.
“They also guided me in gaining local work experience by connecting me to local community groups for volunteer roles and later gave me my first office job in Australia as a receptionist.”
While gaining her Community Services Diploma at TAFE, Ms Odicho volunteered with CORE Community Services and coordinated activities for Iraqi and Syrian community groups.
“Organising information sessions, activities and excursions really gave me the chance to learn and put what I was learning at TAFE into practice.”
In 2016 Ms Odicho was featured in an article that prompted Mission Australia to contact her and offer her an employment opportunity.
“I always thought that these interviews would be good one day,” she said.
After a successful job interview with Mission Australia’s humanitarian entrants program, Ms Odicho was offered a job in its “happy, healthy minds” initiative.
Four months later she applied for a job at Legal Aid in its refugee services division.
“While at Mission Australia, I started to network a lot,” Ms Odicho said.
“I studied everything about Legal Aid in preparation for my application.”
Today, Ms Odicho manages the Community Legal Education program at Legal Aid Refugee Services, responsible for educating refugees about the free services to which they are entitled.
Working with lawyers, Ms Odicho designs educational sessions about the law, tailored specifically for refugees, making the talks more digestible for newcomer communities.
“I use more pictures and less legal jargon,” she said.
When asked about her future aspirations, Ms Odicho said she couldn’t see herself in a role that doesn’t involve helping others, and as she was studying agricultural engineering back in Syria, her dream would be to eventually work for the UN World Food program.
“I want to merge my interests in community work with agriculture.”
This blog appeared originally on the SSI News Blog here.