Omar and Saad Melbourne, VIC

From the Scouts to the school, the generosity and friendship offered by their local community has made a world of difference to Syrian brothers Omar and Saad.  The brothers believe Australia has shown them the meaning of freedom, democracy and harmony.

I am Omar, and my brother Saad and I were in Syria when the civil war started in 2011. I was shot, arrested at university and tortured. We lost many friends and family including my Scout leader as he was trying to help distribute food parcels to displaced refugees living in the schools.

Our daily lives were disrupted by mortar shells and the constant fear of death. We had no choice but to leave the country. As death became very close my family decided to flee to Egypt. We escaped the country through a very dangerous route, almost losing our lives many times. In Egypt, life was hard and the country wasn’t stable. We had a very depressing time. Work and school were almost impossible to attend.

The best news we received was that we had been granted Australian refugee visas. We landed in Melbourne, reuniting with the family of my uncle, who has been living here for 30 years.

At first we were like babies, starting from scratch without speaking English or knowing who to contact. We attended Melbourne Polytechnic to improve our English. This was the place where we first felt welcome and everyone helped us to work on our English. We also used to go home and watch Federal parliament debates and politicians’ speeches to help with our fluency. We have since moved on and I am studying Business at university and Saad is hoping to become a doctor.

In Syria, Scouting was our second family, so since coming here we have returned to our beloved Scouting movement by joining the Cleve Cole Rover Crew and Scouts Australia. We have been welcomed with open arms. They quickly became our closest friends and have become our Australian family.

Scouts helped us figure out things like university, schools and getting a job and taught us about the Australian society and culture. They have taken us all over Victoria and we have met many people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Omar and Saad with members of the Cleve Cole Rover Crew. Standing in the middle row, Saad is second from left and Omar is second from right.

We have engaged in community services with Scouts. We shared in celebrations for ANZAC day and Australia Day, Saad even carrying the Victorian flag in the Australia Day march in Melbourne. It was so nice to feel that you are doing things for your community even from your first year here.

We have received so much support from our local Whittlesea community connection centre. especially to get our driving licences. We also received moral support from Foundation House which has provided us with lots of assistance when times have been hard.

Last year, I celebrated Harmony Day with friends at my English class. They were from many different backgrounds. I ate lots of different food, learnt words from different languages and listened to their cultures’ music. This Harmony Day, I’m going to be a guest speaker in one of my local schools speaking about my experiences and my journey from Syria to Australia.

When you are included in your local community, you feel like you are part of that community, that you can be helped but also help. Being isolated can make the person depressed and prevent him from engaging in society. The best tool against that isolation is a strong community and being included. There is nothing more important as a new arrival than having a good group of friends, which we found in the Scouts.

What we knew about Australia before we came here was bushfires, rabbit problems and deadly animals. But now we know freedom, democracy, and harmony.

Supporting our new arrivals

Australia is welcoming an additional 12,000 refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq. Community support is essential to helping people adjust to their new lives in Australia. Already there has been a great deal of generosity and goodwill shown by the Australian public towards our newest arrivals. To find out how you can help, head to the Department of Social Services’ website.

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