Refugee Week 2020
26 Jun 2020
Last week we acknowledged Refugee Week, celebrating the Year of Welcome. Led by their homeroom teachers our Year 9 students provided the College with many rich resources to raise awareness about refugees in Australia and to create a dialogue about the refugee experience.
Jessica Haddad from Year 9 shared her personal journey of migration from Syria to Australia as a refugee.
My Experience of Being a Refugee
“Hello. My name is Jessica Haddad. I am 14 years old. I have been in Australia for three years and I come from Damascus in Syria. I speak Arabic fluently and English is my second language. In my family there are six people and I am the second youngest of four girls. I would like to tell you what I have experienced in my life.
I was born in 2006 and at that time there was already war in Syria. I grew up knowing that there was a war going on. It was really hard to go to school. We knew that people used to kidnap children on the way to and from school - so we always had to be very careful. There was a lot of shooting and we lived with the fear of that every day. If we rode on a bus we would be afraid because the shooters often targeted the windows of the buses.
We tried to move to a different country but we were declined many times. Then we decided not to go anywhere - but to just stay in Syria. One time when we were at a park my Mum’s cousin called her and told her that Isis had come to our suburb. So our Mum’s cousin told us to go and grab our things and run away. On our way home people were running away - running in the opposite direction to where we were going. They looked so scared. I was really young - maybe six years old but I will never forget the look of fear on their faces.
My Mum decided to go home anyway, and we stayed in our own home. There was no one else there except for us and our Aunty. We stayed at home for three days until Mum had to go and buy food. When she left us, she told us that if the Isis men tried to come into our house we were to drink the milk left on the bench. Mum told us years later that the milk was poisonous - but drinking the poison would be better than someone taking us away.
After a few days we moved, with our Aunty, to the countryside - where we were safe for a few days. We then returned to our home. Life was pretty bad.
A bomb went off next to our house. It was really close and loud. Because the bomb was so loud my younger sister, Mira, couldn’t speak. We were so worried about her. After a day she spoke again and it was a miracle.
There is also another time I remember. Now, when I look back at it, I think it was a miracle. That day my older sister, Claud, didn’t want us all to go to school because she had a bad feeling that something was going to happen. So we stayed home. On that day my second older sister Natalie had sport. Natalie didn’t go to her sport because she decided to stay at home, obeying Claud’s “hunch”. So another girl took Natalie’s place in the team. That girl, who took my sister's place, was killed that day because a bomb fell nearby and she was hit by the shrapnel. I really believe it is a miracle that it wasn’t Natalie who was killed that day.
Finally we were given permission to come to Australia. This happened because my Aunty was married to a Syrian who was born in Australia. I felt a mixture of emotions. First of all, I was happy because we were going to have a good life but also I was sad because we had to leave everything and go to a new country that we didn’t know anything about. I also felt so sad because I had to leave my school and my friends.
At first, living here in Australia was really hard for all of us. We didn’t know anything about how to live here. We were at an Intensive Language school for about 3 - 4 months but we didn’t feel that we learnt much. None of us could speak English well, so it was difficult to get to know people and build friendships. We felt alone but at least we had cousins here. We missed our family back in Syria. It was also a difficult time because the house we were living in was in a very bad condition. Our hot water system broke and nobody would come and fix it. Later on we were able to move to a different house and a different school.
When I came to Nagle I felt very alone because I didn’t know anyone. In English class, one girl came and talked to me and this made a big difference to me. I felt like someone cared. The teachers at Nagle helped me and my older sister, Natalie, a lot with our English. After two years of being here I now have much more confidence and courage in talking to people. I’ve made more friends and I feel like I understand the language better. My family are all managing pretty well now. Mum, Dad and my sisters are all still learning English. My little sister is an expert at English and knows more than any of us. I’m glad that we came to Australia and one day I hope to go back to visit Syria, when it’s safe.
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