Hampton Park is a suburb located in the Southeast of Melbourne, Victoria. Sonia (44) and her two children settled down in this relatively quiet area and began rebuilding their lives. The hope that she had lost began to return to her life. Hampton Park is a suburb located in the Southeast of Melbourne, Victoria. Sonia (44) and her two children settled down in this relatively quiet area and began rebuilding their lives. The hope that she had lost began to return to her life.
Arrived in Indonesia
Sonia is a woman from Afghanistan. She, her husband and two children were forced to leave their home country, Afghanistan, due to violence perpetrated by the Taliban. Initially, they wanted to go to Australia, but they could not enter the country and ended up stranded in Indonesia, where they stayed for a while to save their lives.
Sonia and her family first set foot in Indonesia in 2012, where IOM placed them as a family in Medan. At the beginning of her temporary placement in Medan, Sonia felt that her life had changed drastically. She must adapt to local conditions, and it was not easy. Sonia never imagined that she would have to become a refugee. She often worries about her children's future – will they ever go back to school? Can they achieve their dreams in the future? And various other doubts raging in this mother of two children.
Eventually, she realised that worrying doesn't change things; instead, a positive attitude and outlook make life more dynamic. Sonia realised that time was infinite for her. Therefore, she decided to make peace with time and was determined to spend her days studying for a better future.
During her time in Indonesia, Sonia took various trainings offered by IOM, ranging from foreign language skills, hygiene, hair care, etc.
One of the initial trainings that Sonia took was English training. "When I first arrived in Indonesia, I couldn't speak English. So, I learned from the most basic part. For example, I was taught to know the alphabet first. Even though the English training only lasted six months, it benefited me," said Sonia. She realised that being able to speak English would make it easier for her to start adapting to life in the country she would later live in. "By understanding the local language, I will be able to find work to survive and earn money," said Sonia.
In addition to English, Sonia found it interesting to be able to master hair care and cutting techniques and make-up. So, when IOM offered her the hair and make-up training without a second thought, she jumped at the opportunity.
Storm of Life
A few years after arriving in Indonesia, Sonia reluctantly decided to walk through life alone. Unfortunately, Sonia was a victim of domestic violence. Her two children often witnessed the beatings and abuse she suffered. This situation continued for a long time until one day, Sonia finally had the courage to separate from her husband.
Sonia reported what happened to her and her children to IOM. She sought IOM's protection so they would not experience further abuse. IOM immediately took security measures and placed Sonia and her two children in a special accommodation for women and children in the Padang Bulan area, Medan. Then, IOM put Sonia's husband in a separate accommodation outside Medan. This was done for the safety of Sonia and her two children.
Since her separation, one thing has always spurred Sonia on to succeed in life - she wants to prove that she and her children can live happily and escape from the fear, violence and intimidation that had haunted her all this time.
Welcome to Australia
In 2017, Sonia finally got a placement in Australia. The Australian government provided an opportunity for Sonia and her two children to restart their new life there. Sonia was so happy. "Finally, my two children can return to school, and I have a new opportunity," Sonia said.
Sonia and her children arrived in Perth, Australia, in July 2017. After obtaining official documents to stay in Australia, Sonia and her children moved to Melbourne.
According to Sonia, the first few years of living in Australia were a struggle. "Although I had learned basic English in Indonesia, it was not enough. My English was very limited, and it was challenging for me to communicate with local people. So, I was very sad," Sonia recalls.
However, Sonia was determined to continue learning English to the level needed to help her integrate into the Australian community. Then, Sonia continued her language course at a community school, TAFE, in Melbourne. After six months, Sonia's language skills improved over time, and the situation became more manageable because she could speak English more actively.
After the language course ended, Sonia didn't stop there; she decided to take another year-long hair course at the same place. Sonia admitted the knowledge she learned from Indonesia benefitted her future career.
"In Indonesia, I learned how to do hair straightening, hair spa, hair masks and make-up, apart from hair cutting. Meanwhile, to obtain this knowledge in Australia, you must pay for another course package for six thousand Australian dollars. I am fortunate to have learned about hair and make-up in Indonesia. I have more advanced knowledge than others here," she said via telephone.
"My message to all refugees who are temporarily residing in Indonesia: don't just waste your time sitting around in your accommodation; get busy and take part in all kinds of training provided by IOM. Learn and keep learning. Everything is useful, from haircutting, hair colouring, and even construction training. When we were in the third country, we discovered that the courses provided by IOM were beneficial to support the beginning of our career in the third country. Moreover, we got them all for free while in Indonesia. So, grab your opportunity and don't waste it," said Sonia.
Dreams and Future
Sonia now lives with her two children in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton Park. She is busy fulfilling her dreams. Her dream is to own a small salon business with her colleague. Sonia uses a room in her house to receive haircuts and treatments. "Every day, about 5-6 people come for hair treatment," says Sonia.
"My dream is to have a small and professionally managed place for hair cutting and grooming business complete with massage and make-up. Hopefully, next year my goal can be achieved, "said Sonia.
Since being in Australia, Sonia admits that the freedom and opportunities that were once taken away from her and her two children are slowly and surely being achieved. However, armed with the knowledge and skills she learned in Indonesia and Australia, she is more confident in building her life. "No life is easy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Thus, follow the process, persevere and be patient," Sonia told IOM.
IOM's Vocational Training for Refugees
During their stay in Indonesia, refugees under IOM's program; have the options to take part in various trainings to develop their skills and equip themselves for their new country once they could resettle. Through the training programs, refugees are expected to master basic skills that will help them in the process of finding jobs in their new country.
Sukma Perwira Surbakti, a Mental Health & Psychological Support (MHPSS) staff from IOM Medan, stated that training such as hair styling and make-up was one of the most in-demand training for many refugees in Medan.
Sonia, according to Sukma, is one example of a refugee full of persistence - taking advantage of the opportunities provided by IOM. "At that time, Sonia had just finished her English training class. So I offered Sonia the opportunity to join the hair & make-up training. Sonia responded very enthusiastically. She used her time well and seized the momentum." Sukma said.
To this day, various vocational trainings are continuously made available for refugees under IOM care in Indonesia. It is hoped that more refugees would take on the opportunities and spend their time more productively while in transit. "A creative approach is needed so that these refugees want to take this opportunity and prepare themselves as much as possible. Never too late to learn." Sukma said.