Get to know Road to Refuge’s volunteers: Jules and Judy

Screen shot 2016-01-21 at 9.59.34 AM

The Scene: The two Road to Refuge Volunteers met in Judy’s lunch break to ask each other a few questions over chai lattes and sandwiches at Heart Attack and Vine on Lygon Street.

Why do you volunteer for Road to Refuge?

Jules: A few different reasons – initially it was broader and a general disdain for current policies and conversations about people seeking refuge and asylum, and a feeling that things need to change. Once I started, I found the organisation itself is fun and volunteers are like-minded people with a lot of passion and drive who share the vision as well, which makes it a very inspiring and exciting environment.

Judy: Yeah, I think you summed it up really well there Jules. I felt so disheartened and helpless and then realised that I could in fact start to do something about it. I saw the events position advertised and jumped at the opportunity, as I also wanted more experience with event planning and it al seemed too perfect. Oh, and if we are being honest, initially I also wanted to join R2R to become better friends with Dana (Mission accomplished by the way).

Judy: …and we should have asked, what is your role at Road to Refuge?

Jules: I am the Schools Coordinator, which means I organise and coordinate school workshops and events as well as facilitating and training other facilitators in running those.

Judy: I’m the Events Team Co-ordinator. The Events Team plan, organise and pull-off education-based events.

Jules: So what kind of events do you put on?

Judy: We do events that try to hit particular groups, which may not engage in refugee and people seeking asylum issues. My favourite event so far was Women Who Seek Safety, a panel held at the Wheeler Centre which addressed intersectionality; it looked at the fact that feminists in Melbourne had largely ignored the issues specifically faced by females who seek asylum, and that these are important feminist issues.

Jules: Why was it your favourite?

Judy: For me, gender and women is something I’m passionate about. I majored in this area at university and it gets me really angry. The event itself went so well too, we sold out the Wheeler Centre and there was a real buzz. The speakers were all fantastic and inspiring.

Where do you do most of your R2R work?

Judy: In bed at about 11 at night! Or Emily (who as of this year is our new director) and I  are known for Saturday morning power-working sessions in my kitchen.

Jules: Media Creatures, an amazing group of people working in media production let Road to Refuge use their office space in Collingwood, so I’ve been going in weekly and using their wonderful big office.

Outside of R2R, how do you spend your time?

Judy: I just graduated a Master of Public Health and landed a job at the Cancer Council in health education. Aside from that, I spend far too much time reading health food blogs, celebrity blogs and going to nightclubs!

Jules: I’m just into my second year of a Juris Doctor Law degree at Monash University and that takes up a lot of my time. Outside of that… I have been watching a lot of X-Files and Survivor and just started on the new season of The Bachelor. I also work at the Queen Victoria Market as a Tea and Coffee Merchant!

Judy: Oh oops, I also forgot to say I’ve started the new season of The Bachelor, so yeah that takes up quite some time.

Who do you live with?

Jules: I live with 3 friends who I’ve lived with for about 5 years. We live in a skinny single fronted terrace and we enjoy watching the aforementioned television programs together. We also generally read the paper together each morning; Sofia does the cryptic, Lily reads the quiz, I give my opinions and Annie frequently steals the paper.

Judy: Funnily enough, I also live with three friends that I’ve lived with for about five years. What do we do? Gosh, I guess if I’m being honest we pretty frequently stand around in our active wear and discuss food and exercise at length… We are currently living in Clifton Hill after living in North Fitzroy for about 3 years and I think we are all still secretly mourning the old house.

Jules: Why do you mourn the old house?

Judy: It was in the best location and had so much character and we had the best times there!

What are you excited about in the year to come for Road to Refuge?

Judy: I’m excited about continuing on the theme of intersectionality and hitting on a lot of issues currently not talked about enough in this sector.

Jules: I am excited about the regional tours this year in Warrnambool and Bendigo, very excited to meet with the students and to do some work with the events team and do some events in those areas as well!

Judy: Oh cool idea Jules! We should definitely talk events!

Get to know Road to Refuge’s volunteers: Jules and Judy

Road to Refuge goes to Horsham!

At the beginning of December 2015, the Schools Team took a trip to the city of Horsham, a four-hour train ride from Melbourne. We were invited by Horsham College to spend two days at their school conducting workshops with their students and those from the nearby Dimboola Memorial Secondary College.

The Road to Refuge Schools Team works with metropolitan and regional schools to run workshops across Victoria. We aim to build empathy and understanding of the issues faced by people seeking safety in Australia by engaging students and giving them the tools to have informed discussions with people in their communities about those issues.

In Horsham, we ran eight workshops with classes from Horsham and Dimboola Colleges, reaching a total of 300 students across two days!

Road to Refugee at Horsham College
Julia running a workshop

Our interactive workshop started off with an introduction to the key words and definitions used when talking about refugees and people seeking asylum.

We then ran a choose-your-own-adventure activity based on one of Road to Refuge’s character: a young Iranian girl called Layla who travels to Australia with her family to escape persecution in her home.

Along the way, Layla and her family make decisions such as:

  • whether to stay in Iran or flee to Indonesia,
  • whether to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR in Jakarta or to take a boat to Australia,
  • what items to bring with them, and
  • what to leave behind.

We encouraged students to step into Layla’s shoes and make those decisions themselves. Our role as facilitators was to give further insights into the consequences of each decision and unpack how students felt when faced with those choices.

A challenge throughout the workshops was balancing the delivery of occasionally heavier and more serious content throughout a (hopefully) fun and engaging session.

One of the activities we ran required students to draw a backpack and list four things they would take with them when fleeing their homes indefinitely. Most students chose very practical items, such as food, water, weapons, travel documents, and birth certificates. Some were more sentimental, and chose to take photos, their teddies, even their pets.

We had a laugh when one student earnestly shared his backpack, which included ‘that thing in the Hunger Games that you stick in a tree and water comes out and Allen’s snakes.’

The Horsham tour was an incredible learning opportunity for the entire team, especially Annie and I as first time facilitators. It was hugely rewarding to have students actively engaging with our sessions, asking questions and wanting to learn more about the topic.

Annie and I as successful first-time facilitators.
Annie and I as successful first-time facilitators.

We were able to have frank discussions about Australia’s policies and it was encouraging seeing them realise the complexities of the issues and asking for ways to respond to the situation, which brought on a great sense of achievement for the whole team.

Road to Refuge goes to Horsham!

What have we been doing in 2015?

It’s been a massive year for Road to Refuge – in less than twelve months, we have rapidly expanded to a team of 30 volunteers – and this is indicative of our growth as a whole.

For those new to Road to Refuge, and for those wanting to look back on our best year yet, here is a quick glimpse of what we’ve been up to in 2015!

Our Schools team ran 22 school workshops at 13 different schools across Melbourne’s inner and outer suburbs, as well as regional areas of Victoria. We presented workshops to almost 1000 students and presentations to 50 staff.

Horsham Schools Tour

The Road to Refuge Schools team ran two regional school tours:

  • The first tour went to Shepparton, Echuca and Mooroopna, reached almost 500 students and 40 teachers in four days over July, and concluded with a screening of Mary Meets Mohammad.
  • Our second tour went to Horsham in December and spoke to over 300 Year 7-9 students from Horsham College and Dimboola Memorial Secondary College.

The Community Education Team ran workshops for a total of 170 attendees, some run by Road to Refuge and others in partnership with not for profit organisations.

A highlight of 2015 was The Fence comedy debateJudith Lucy, Julian Burnside, First Dog on the Moon, Cal Wilson, Lehmo, Jessie Taylor and Akmal Saleh in front of a sold out crowd of 700. If you missed the event you can catch a glimpse and have a chuckle here.

The Fence Comedy Debate

The Events Team put on the third Read Between the Wines event on A Country Too Far, with a panel including writers Arnold Zable and Judith Rodriguez. We ran Women Who Seek Safety, a sold out event at the Wheeler Center, focused on the issues specifically faced by women seeking refuge. Finally our Film for Thought short film evening this month was so popular, people were using standing room just so they didn’t miss out!

The Coffee Cart team had a presence at many events throughout the year, including the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice, Amnesty International’s Candle Day and Amnesty Refugee Network’s Festival of Hope on Refugee Day, as well as several community festivals.

In 2015, we debuted our Coffee Cup Project for Refugee Week. Over 37,000 cups were distributed to customers by 29 cafes across Melbourne, all stamped with Road to Refuge branding and website to bring refugees and their journeys into the days of the coffee-drinking public.

Road to Refuge Coffee Cup Project

Looking ahead, 2016 is going to be even better. Keep updated here on the blog and sign up to our newsletter to receive regular invites and news of the exciting projects we already have in the works for next year!

// RTR Team

What have we been doing in 2015?