Recon Ministries, an initiative of a group of church youth is making a difference in the lives of refugees in Melbourne. ADRA-Victoria Director Phil Brown tells how.
According to statistics, up to 7000 Sudanese migrants are living in Melbourne's outer south-eastern and western suburbs, many of them new arrivals, with more arriving constantly. They have been displaced due to the civil war being fought in their homeland.
The Melbourne geographical areas that have become their temporary home are already well populated with migrants of many different ethnic origins, so there are already comprehensive community support services in place. However, when some of the Sudanese happened to see the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) logo painted on the side of a community-service van in the area, they recognised it from Sudan, where ADRA has a strong presence in development.
The van is owned and operated by Recon Ministries, an initiative of a group of church youth but supported by ADRA–Australia, thus the logo.
Recon delivers charitable services to people in need on the streets of Springvale, Dandenong, Noble Park, Lilydale and Mooroolbark.
It also operates Recon Community House in Springvale, which is a drop-in program for at-risk young people, and now includes Sudanese refugees.
Most of the Sudanese refugees have experienced great suffering in their homeland, but despite that, these days they're personally happy and positive about life. ADRA– Australia has assisted them with interest-free loans to help pay off the fares of family members coming to Australia.
Kor, a Sudanese youth worker, is helping in various recreational and spiritual activities.
Recon, along with Kor, have helped connect the migrant group with the local council, police and welfare service providers with excellent results. They also learn music, drama and traditional dance, with some providing the music for a 40-member church they've established in Dandenong.
Elana Sheldon, Springvale Community Centre coordinator, said that many of the Sudanese youth involved in the programs were disadvantaged but as a result of the programs are beginning to demonstrate leadership and responsibility. “They want to do things they enjoy and work together with the local community. They just need some sort of guidance.” Recon Community House runs various programs and workshops, such as nutritional cooking on a budget, resume writing, financial planning, art and craft, gardening, soccer and conversational English and also gives parenting advnice and drug and alcohol education.