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Shymaa Khalifa began as a volunteer with ADS in February 2020, went on to complete a student placement, and then returned to volunteering. She says the friendly and educative environment at ADS frees her to be her best self – and is assisting her to achieve her goal to be a DV case worker.

What drew you to volunteer and/or to do your student placement with ADS?

I heard about the programs ADS provided for new migrants and was really keen to be a part of them. I started as a volunteer, then applied to have my work placement with ADS. After finishing my hours as a student, I was back to being a volunteer. The friendly yet educative environment was what encouraged me the most. As a new migrant myself, being a part of ADS diverse staff is a great opportunity to learn more about community without the fear of being judged or belittled.

What are you studying and where?  How has your personal history and/or your cultural background informed your work with ADS?

I’m a Diploma of Community Services student with TAFE St George. I came to Australia in 2018. Starting to familiarise myself with professional work places was an intimidating step for me. So, coming to volunteer with ADS and being able to be myself was a gift.

I have been always interested in community services (CS) but with no chance to practise my interests in my country, so coming to ADS and working in inspiring programs such as Specialised Intensive Services (SIS), Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS), and the Domestic Violence (DV) pilot is considered my actual first opportunity to put my deep interest in CS in action.

What ADS programs have you assisted with and how have you been encouraged to apply your studies and expand your skills in your role?

I assisted with SIS, SETS, Emergency Relief (ER)and DV pilot. Under the constructive supervision I was able understand more about grants, funding, different visas and more and more about refugees and asylum seekers. As a diploma student, just studying case management was at some point not enough to see the whole picture. Assisting in the SIS program practically expanded my vision on what case management actually means. I saw that to have a client with complex needs, SIS addresses these needs elaborately. I also learnt how the case worker can work with the client on a case management plan to achieve the client’s goal before the Exit stage.

What has been the most challenging work you have done with ADS during your time as a volunteer and student on placement?

One challenge for me was understanding the limitations of every service, mostly due to funding.

What strengths have you brought to your role / placement?

My strengths are: being a keen learner who wants to know more about community services in Australia from different views; my lived experience as a new migrant; and being a bilingual person

What has been your proudest moment, greatest achievement, deepest connection in your time at ADS? 

I still remember my first meeting with a client who identifies as LGBTIQ+ and she looked at me with doubt but how, now, she would answer my calls with enthusiasm and discuss anything with me with trust.

‘Be You with Us’ is ADS’ tagline, and it reflects the organisation’s commitment to welcoming and accepting everyone of all ages, gender, culture, sexuality, and religious beliefs. How have you been encouraged to ‘Be You with Us’ during your time with ADS?

I felt so supported all the time to express my ideas, practice my prayers and ask if I don’t understand anything. As a parent, I’m always able to put my family and my children first and never worry about work when I’m home.

What more should the Australian Government be doing to welcome migrants and refugees and to ensure they find the support they need to adjust quickly and well to life in Australia?

It is a priority for the government to provide more relevant and comprehensive orientation programs for newcomers on all kinds of visas.

What is your ultimate goal and how has the work you’ve done with ADS equipped you for what you would like to do next?

My goal is to work as a DV case worker. Working with ADS and with its SIS and DV pilot programs gave me a lot of relevant experience in this area.

I love ADS because … I can be the ‘best me’ there.