DURING Refugee Week, which began yesterday, there’s plenty of local stories to think about – Apach Mapieo’s is just one.
Imagine spending years apart from your wife and children all in the name of creating a better life for them. That’s exactly what this Sudanese refugee, now living in Coffs Harbour, did.
In 1999, Apach’s wife Mary Marial fled war-torn Sudan and went to Egypt. She stayed there for five years until she could come to Australia.
It wasn’t until September last year that Apach could join her and their three children.
“The war in Sudan changed the country in all aspects – the way we live life, education, everything,” he said.
“We came to Australia because we can get an education.”
For Mary, moving to a completely foreign country she knew little about was extremely difficult.
“It was scary coming here because we didn’t know anything about it,” she said.
“We knew it was a continent but that was it. We called it ‘Binythar’ – the end of the world. I heard about the Pacific Ocean but I never thought I would actually be able to walk into it.”
Now, with the family back together, Apach and Mary are studying and love life in Coffs Harbour.
“It’s good, life here is good – but it can be hard when you don’t have any work,” Apach said.
“I came here to study and get a good job so I can support my family. I like the people here, they are all very friendly and helpful – if you ask for help you will genuinely get it, not like in Africa.”
A lot of that help is given by North Coast Settlement Service. From helping find accommodation, study and work, the service aims to help refugees like Apach and Mary find life in Coffs Harbour that little bit easier.
Senior support worker Ron Gray said the services sees hundreds of refugees.
“We’re growing all the time, we’re gaining clients faster than we’re losing them,” Mr Gray said.
“We help with basically anything they need, from translators to help finding accommodation, schooling and jobs. Our job description changes every day.”
This week is Refugee Week, aimed at informing the public about refugees and celebrating positive contributions made by refugees.