Migrants find harmony calling Canberra home

Migrants find harmony calling Canberra home

Migrants find harmony calling Canberra home

Updated 12 October 2016, 10:20 AEDT

Canberra gave them kindness and opportunity, now these four migrants are paying it forward.

Community and Society:Immigration:RefugeesCommunity and Society:Immigration:ALLHuman Interest:People:ALLHuman Interest:ALL:ALLAustralia:ACT:Canberra 2600Sri Lanka:ALL:ALLIndia:ALL:ALLBurma:ALL:ALLSouth Sudan:ALL:ALLABCKim LesterMigrants find harmony calling Canberra homeCanberra gave them kindness and opportunity, now these four migrants are paying it forward.

Canberra welcomed them with kindness and opportunity, now these four migrants are paying it forward.

They miss their extended families, the culture and food of their homelands — but they all share a love for the city they now call home.

Nasreen Hafesjee arrived in Sydney from India in 1994, lived in Melbourne for six years before moving to Canberra when her daughters were aged two and one.

Once the girls started school, she found time to pursue a lifelong interest in radio, joining the team at the Canberra Multicultural Services community radio station.

In 2011 she developed Yes She Can, a program featuring interviews with local women on everything from resilience and family violence to craft hobbies.

Ms Hafesjee said she had dreamed of broadcasting Yes She Can in India but admitted she had a love-hate relationship with her homeland.

"I hate it because of all of the things that are happening now and because of the way the government doesn't look after everything — the roads, the way people live, there is so much poverty amongst people who are in the remote communities and things like that," she said.

"But I love the culture ... People say there is spirituality, it is there and I have seen it ... I grew up there and I have felt that spirituality.

"I think it's the land of maternal love, mothers go so far to show their love for their children, to sacrifice so much and I have seen ... the pain some of them go through to look after their children."

Peter Kuot was a Dinka fisherman on the River Nile in South Sudan, an area that was once safe from rebel fighters.

But eventually the war found him and starvation drove him into Kenya.

He spent five years in a refugee camp before coming to Australia in 2006.

Now an Anglican minister, Mr Kuot said he wished he could return to South Sudan to share his faith with the people left behind.

"Even though people are Christian, they're really thinking in a way that is hopeless because they might think, 'where is God now' and 'we've been created here and we have nothing'," he said.

"They try figure out [what the future holds] but it's very hard and only God knows how long the disaster [will last]."

His congregation in Canberra's north is made up of more than 100 Dinka members who gather each Sunday for his services.

Originally from Sri Lanka, Geetha Wijewickrema moved to Australia in 1995 after meeting her future husband on a holiday to Sydney.

Their life changed remarkably when their youngest daughter Gayana was born with Down syndrome.

Ms Wijewickrema studied disability care and became a special needs teaching assistant.

To help Gayana into the workforce, she started GG's Flowers so that she could employ and train her daughter as a florist.

"We go out and people recognise her and people treat her equally," she said.

Ms Wijewickrema said she could not bear to think of how different Gayana's life would have been if she had been born in Sri Lanka.

It took Zehan Nai 14 days to walk from his Karen village in Myanmar's south east to a Mon township on the border with Thailand.

That was in 1997 and from there he travelled to a Thai refugee camp in 1999 before settling in Australia three years later with his wife and two sons.

"Growing up there, we had nothing," he said.

He hoped one day his sons would take that good fortune back to Myanmar and help people there.

"[My youngest] boy is very excited to help the people, I can see that," he said.

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