Our Friendship: April and Bolena

April and Bolena - SCARF blog

It’s often commented that one of the best things about SCARF are the friendships formed in our community. Indeed, many SCARF friendships have become lifelong, continuing outside the parameters of volunteer roles and SCARF activities.

SCARF actively encourages friendships through our Befriending Program, where volunteers are paired with community members. To a similar end, an inclusive atmosphere is fostered through Social Inclusion activities such as our weekly Coffee and Conversation group and Social Hangout Nights.

April and Bolena, A SCARF Befriending duo, share the kind of friendship that typifies what we hope our initiatives can encourage – friendships that are supportive, mutually enjoyable  and beneficial.

Bolena, originally from Iraq, joined SCARF after one month of being in Australia. “I had to leave Iraq because I had war in my country. I’m also a journalist, so that’s very big trouble. I didn’t have safety….After one month in Australia, I came to SCARF.”

She explained that she was eager to improve her English, as she saw it as key to achieving her goals. “The first thing is language, then after that I can make everything I want. I can find a job, I can study. I want to go very far… My goal is to go to university to become a manager for a medical clinic.” she told us.

For such a simple thing, a friendship can make a big difference. Through her friendship with April, Bolena has been able to improve her English, as well as feel supported and welcomed.

“My SCARF friend, April, has helped me for many things. She’s helped me find my unit, she rings me all the time, we hang out. She’s very a beautiful girl. She’s also helped with the language. She’s my friend. That’s really good for me,” Bolena says of the friendship.  “Every person, like refugee, need someone to say ‘Welcome’, and ‘I’m a friend here.”

The friendship is just as enjoyable for April, a Law and International Studies student at UOW, and SCARF’s volunteer Coffee and Conversation Coordinator.

“I’ve learnt so much from Bolena, besides learning about her experience and culture in Iraq, I’ve been able to improve my communication skills,” says April.

“Bolena and some of her friends came over to my house for Christmas. We’ve also gone out  to Humber and Pepe’s – gone dancing and had some wine. SCARF is honestly such a lovely organisation to be apart of, everyone is so welcoming, it’s such a warm environment. I’ve got a beautiful friend out of it. It’s been incredibly rewarding.”

In a broader sense, friendships between Illawarra locals and refugee entrants is positive for the  community we live in. An inclusive community is more cohesive, culturally rich, and just a better place to be. As Bolena reflects, “Aussie and refugee are together, and that’s a very good thing.”

Photo credit: Sarah Pulling of Bear Hunt Photography