"We left with just the clothes we were wearing"

Posted 3 August 2017 9:50am

When they received a message that their daughter was about to be kidnapped by a terrorist group, Jan and Silva fled their home in Syria, leaving everything they owned behind them. 

Now settled in Hobart, the family say the immediate warm welcome and community support changed their lives. 

“We were very happy when we arrived and when we didn’t feel like we were in a strange place,” Silva said. 

“People came to us straight away and helped us. We have never felt alone. When we arrived here, we didn’t know anything. CatholicCare Tasmania has helped us with everything – appointments, transport, church… even helping us make friends.” 

Now employed in his trade as a shoemaker, Silva said although his family live with the pain of friends and family still in Syria, they also feel optimistic about their own future for the first time in years. 

Victoria tells a similar story. Her family left all their possessions behind when ISIS came to their home town of Mosul. 

“We left at 2am, just in the clothes we were wearing. We were in danger. They broke my son’s leg.” 

Safe in Hobart, Victoria says CatholicCare has made life easy. 

“It would have been so difficult without their help, as I don’t know much English. They have done so much, and the volunteers have been great. If I need anything, I just give them a call.” 

CatholicCare Multicultural Service Programs Manager James Norman said when they took on the role of providing settlement for Syrian and Iraqi families, they wanted to offer the best support possible. 

“People who arrive and settle here are provided with good access to essential services, including houses and schools. They can also expect a warm, Tasmanian welcome. In addition to our contracted settlement and support services, we have been able to connect them with numerous, tireless volunteers. Through activities such as shared meals, picnics, excursions and workshops organised by CatholicCare – often in partnership with other services – and because of the decision to house the new arrivals close to one another initially, a growing sense of community solidarity has developed.” 

Mr Norman said the help of volunteers, the companionship of the church community and the city’s warm response to their arrival had fostered a sense of community connection. 

“These are people who have had traumatic refugee experiences, and they are impatient to return to work and to get back to normal life. We are keen for them to do that in Tasmania.” 


[The settlement services provided by CatholicCare Tasmania are funded through the Department of Social Services.] 

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