“My name is Elizabeth Jowanie, I came to Australia in 2008, that was 8 years ago. My parents were born in Myanmar (Burma). After my parents fled Myanmar, they settled in a refugee camp in Thailand called Maesuri. So, I was born and raised in the refugee camp near Burma & Thailand border for 12 years. I didn’t have a country to call home. I came to Australia with my 2 brothers and my parents. I am grateful that we are still together.
Growing up in Australia as a refugee teenage girl, I felt very different from other people. I was different in the way I look, the way I behave, the way I dress, the way I speak and many more, I felt less confident in myself.
In school, I was worried if the other students would accept and understood me for who I was. I didn’t know how to begin to explain to them that I was different from them. What I have lived through, what I have felt and what I have seen were mountains, rivers, green forest, bamboo built houses, laughing neighbours, crying neighbours, insecurity, poverty, desperation, happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, violence, compassion and much more. I couldn’t share my story because I wasn’t in the position, I couldn’t speak English confidently, I was afraid that I will be disrespected and I was embarrassed to tell an experience that was not positive.
Then, I met SCARF volunteers. They helped me with my homework. They also listened to my story. They understood me, they supported me and it made me feel like I was a star. It made me feel that people in Wollongong were lovely. That was how Wollongong became so dear to me. It became my home where I have my family, many friends and colleagues. I felt that I belonged here for the first time. What I learned from SCARF volunteers was that I could brush off the negativity that was thrown at me, keep shining brightly and be the best I can be.
In the past, I didn’t know what I had and what I could do with my skills. SCARF supported me and opened opportunities for me to take part in many leadership skills development programs. Today, I feel equipped and I am using my skills to give back to the community.
I volunteer with SCARF and help with interpreting in Karenni and Karen languages. Mostly, I work with SCARF volunteers to assist the Burmese Karenni community members with form filing and more. I casually take part in the SCARF youth development activities. I got to know some amazing multicultural young people, I believe that they have potential and they also need support to help them uncover what they can do.
I work with Navitas as a causal case worker, I have learned so much over the past 2 years working with clients and experienced/friendly staff members. I am an interpreter for Centrelink and soon I will be able to be an interpreter for the health service. I hope to make communication barrier a thing that can be overcome for the community members. I would like to make it known that diversity is a good thing. Currently, I am studying Bachelor of Nursing, it is a 3 year course and I am in 2nd year. I want to become a registered nurse.
I am thankful to the lovely volunteers who gave so much and expect so little in return. It’s been said to “give more than you take” and you have proven that and you have inspired me to do the same. I wish for you, your family and friends all the joy, goodness and blessings.
To everyone who is reading my story, I want you to take a way a very special message that is “you are special no matter what and you are loved”, it is a silent confidence that’s going to help you get through anything.”
About War: A poem by Elizabeth
War is hell, filled with tears and blood
Soldiers dead as they protect the villagers
Worse and More they were killing
Please help! Please help! Hear them calling
Soldier’s dead like slaughtered animals
There is no one to help them so,
Scared to die but, no way
Saying good bye to their family
With waving hands, they’ll be waiting
Close your eyes never look back
Boom! Hear the gun shot
Run for your life! Shout one of the soldiers
As bullets whistled past them
Suddenly, the bushes are on fire
Flying smoke, softly rising in the air
Hoping that peace soon will come
Living in war is filled with tears and blood
WAITING, long time… for someone’s help
And free us from this hell place.
The time has come, we’ll be ready
Love, Joy, and Peace, found in every one’s heart
Together we can change the world,
In different ways, as peaceful like the heavens
The world will shine, we’ll come together
Celebrate the world, filled with happiness
Smiling faces on every one
Feeling the freedom mean so much more,
More than the Sky.