Allow me to present a snapshot of my story.
My name is Sophia. I was born in Congo (DRC) but only lived there for the first five years of my life. My family was forced to flee the country because of the war, leaving behind all our precious belongings.
I was raised in Australia, but with a balance of western and African ideals. I was encouraged to explore the different opportunities available to me, but to also be supportive of those around me. I was and still am encouraged to be myself and to not be afraid of following some of my cultural practices and sharing this with the wider society.
My family and I walked from the Congo to Tanzania, running from the war. We lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania for over eight years before coming to Adelaide, Australia.
Although there were great challenges along the way, my journey to Australia had some interesting aspects. Everyday is a challenge for refugees in camps. In my camp, what keeps people strong is hope and courage. Hope that the war will be ending soon and everyone will be going back home. When in the camp, life is on pause. My life was on pause for eight years. For others, after 23 years, their lives are still on pause.
I was born in a small village called Nundu located in the town called Baraka, which is in DRC. Although I do not remember much about my hometown, I have been told by my parents that Congo is rich in soil and that that it is a tropical place (at least in Nundu). The people were very supportive of one another and they looked out for each other. The majority of the people in my hometown – my parents included – were farmers and they would sell their produce in order to buy other things such as clothes or soap and pay for things like school fees for their children.
My family was in grave danger in the Congo if we were to go back, so my parents applied for resettlement in a third country, which happened to be Australia. We did not choose to come to Australia, in fact we had never heard of the place until the day my family was told by the UNHCR that we had been selected by Australia.
Living in Australia means a lot to me. I am extremely grateful for what this beautiful country has done for me. Not only has it provided a home for me, this country with all the opportunities that came with it has enabled me a chance to grow into an independent woman.
It is just sad how it came to be that I live in this place that I now love, because I was displaced from my birth county without consent.
I have made a home for myself here in Australia, where I am a part of different community groups.
I have been involved in a number of community activities recently. For example, from time to time I help with office work in the CCSA, I am also involved in forming the CCSA Women’s group and I was appointed as an assistant secretary for the group. At West Beach, I am a part of the patrol group where we spend time at the beach a Life Saving Guards to ensure beach safety is maintained and looking out for any dangers. I have been a part of the migrant swimming program at West Beach, where we provide free swimming lessons for newly arrived migrants in SA. With Speaking Made Easy, I once served as the Group President for a South Australian subgroup. I also had the opportunity to be part of a panel for Australian Psychological Society (SA branch), where I was invited to speak about my journey, challenges and the adjustment after trauma, as a young person from a refugee background.
Since my early childhood I received a lot of support from various people and organisations and being involved in the community is one way for me to give back. I also enjoy contributing to the community because not only am I helping people, I do learn a lot from the interactions I have with individuals.
I enjoy supporting members of the public and I wish for Australia to be more inclusive. I believe that as Australians, we could and should be more welcoming as well as supportive of those who have come across the seas, as our national anthem states. I long to see South Australians come together in supporting each other and not form small groups of only people from similar backgrounds because we would not be able to learn about others if we remain in our small groups.
As an individual, I see myself as a citizen of the world because although I introduce myself as Congolese, I have little knowledge of how the place looks or feels. I was born in Congo, but raised elsewhere. The place I once called home (the Camp) does not exist anymore and all my precious childhood memories of the place are with me, but I cannot visit the place even if I wanted to. And of course, I have spent most of my life here in South Australia but I still miss home. Therefore, I cannot exclude either one of the places I have lived because that would mean erasing the memories I have of the place; which is impossible.
As a young leader in Australia, I seek to empower others and work with the people in the community to create a better South Australia and a better world.