Volunteer Dewan shares lived experience and builds skills through Ucan2

Meet Dewan, a Ucan2 volunteer who arrived in Australia just three years ago to pursue his studies. In 2018 he graduated with a Master’s Degree in International Community Development from Victoria University. Passionate about getting involved in his community and supporting other newly-arrived young people, he applied to become a volunteer with Ucan2 in 2019.

Ucan2 provides additional support for young people aged 16-24 years, who are newly-arrived to Australia and from a refugee or migrant background. CMY engages a community of volunteers who act as mentors to support young people in an educational setting.

As a volunteer, Dewan met with participants each week to develop their employment-related skills, such as career planning, resume writing and interview skills. They would also play games, have picnics, and visit libraries and historical sites, to build on practical skills, such as communication, relationship building and networking.

Yonas Gebremichael, Ucan2 Multicultural Youth Support Worker who supported Dewan said, “When I first met Dewan, he doubted himself slightly. We ask the volunteers to share their own life experiences, work, social activities, so considering he was quite new to Australia, he didn’t feel like he could share a lot. But Dewan had lived experience that was familiar to young people who had just arrived.”

“Young people from different cultural backgrounds naturally take a while to open up but he inspired them and encouraged them by using his own experiences. His calm nature meant he got along with teachers and students really well – so he was a great role model and had a lot to share.”

Dewan says that volunteering with Ucan2 has also enriched his skills tenfold. “I have a better understanding about the rights and life journeys of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, and how migration affects them physically, economically, and psychosocially.”

Being newly-arrived himself, Dewan found that through offering mentoring support and learning about other young people’s cultures, he was able to develop his interpersonal communication skills and his respect for diversity and commitment to inclusion has grown.

“The most exciting outcome is that these learnings have helped me to become successful in job interviews with three non-government organisations for the role of Community (Youth) Support Worker,” Dewan said.

Since then, he has successfully secured a job as a Community Support Worker.

Ucan2 has transitioned to an online format during COVID-19 and continues to support young people who now, more than ever, need the support and connection to successfully settle in Australia.

“One of our new students, who had only been in Australia eight months when the lockdown laws were put in place, found it really difficult to cope. She didn’t have the opportunity to make any friends and it really affected her mental health, but said that through the program, she is already feeling a sense of connection and her mental health has improved a lot,” Yonas said.

To find out more about Ucan2 or to become a volunteer, visit: https://www.cmy.net.au/young-people-community/support/ucan2/