Hope in her heart – Atoor’s story

Episode 1 October 21, 2021 00:26:19
Hope in her heart – Atoor’s story
Breaking Barriers
Hope in her heart – Atoor’s story
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Show Notes

On this episode of Breaking Barriers, host Natalie Jones hears the heart-wrenching story of a woman who escaped to Australia after life-threatening circumstances forced her to flee Iraq. How did a MatchWorks program assist her with overcoming trauma and finding meaningful employment?

Atoor Tamris is a courageous woman, driven by a passion for improving the wellbeing of others - first by helping young victims of conflict in Iraq, then caring for her elderly parents, and finally assisting refugees in positions just like she was when she arrived in Australia.

Main points:
● We meet Atoor and find out how the situation in Baghdad during the 90’s affected her upbringing and early work life. 1.00-4.31
● Atoor delves into the terrifying events that forced her to leave Iraq. 4.31-7.50
● Atoor’s refugee journey from Lebanon to Australia is covered, and she describes the years she spent caring for her parents. 9.24-13.03
● Peter Albertin is introduced, and we learn about the KickStart for Refugees program. 13.03-16.54
● We discover how the program helped Atoor overcome boundaries and land her dream job at MatchWorks. 16.54-25.18
Episode quotes:

“It was like a movie. I was thinking, ‘what is my mother going to do? Okay, they will kill me. Who is going to tell my family?’ They were very hard moments.”

“I was jumping and screaming ‘we will go, we will go.’ Nobody understood what was going on, nobody. My dad was screaming ‘what's going on? Why are you doing that?”’ I was just jumping, jumping. ‘Everyone, we'll go’. It was a mix of crying and laughing. And, oh my God, I can't forget that day. It was like you’re a bird, put in a cage, and you open the gate for him.”

“It's really that sense of being on the other side of the table, that sows that trust and belief for people that are sitting there. Then seeing Atoor and how far she's come, and being able to connect deeper with them and say that, you know, if she can do it, then I can do it too.”

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:08 This is breaking barriers, a new podcast from MatchWorks exploring remarkable stories about why work matters and how it's changing the lives of some incredible people. I'm that joins. And in this series, we meet a gamer using imagined worlds to create better realities, a mad cane sports fan who found a perfect match. And we check into hotel Eddie co Australia's, first social enterprise hotel, where holidays create opportunities. That's also calm and breaking barriers from MatchWorks. Australia's leading nonprofit employment and recruitment specialists going beyond to build diverse and inclusive workplaces for business and lasting employment for people from all backgrounds, ages, and abilities more on MatchWorks later. Now it's time to meet a woman who is a survivor in the true sense of the word. Speaker 2 00:01:06 I look like a movie. I was thinking, quote, my mother going to do they'll okay. They will kill me. Hold on. I'll tell them my family. It wasn't very hard moments, Speaker 1 00:01:19 Just how it all escaped with her life that day. Well, we'll get into that first. We need to wind the clock back to the mid 1990s and the war-torn streets of Baghdad. The Bob Barrick regime of Saddam Hussein has ripped apart much of the country, but standing and made the ruin with hope in her. Heart is a tour she's just finished high school and looking forward to going to university and exciting Rite of passage for teenagers across the world. Yet coming of age in a war zone is to live a life gripped by intimidation, violence, and fear Speaker 2 00:01:58 TV. We had bought, um, all the channels, what managed by the government. So we didn't know too much. They choose, uh, what movie they choose, what a show. So we didn't have a freedom. We didn't know that much about what's happening outside Iraq since our childhood. It was the same. So we used to that. But now when I remember it's a scary Speaker 1 00:02:27 Against the odds, a tour excels at Baghdad university, she's hungry to learn and complete a bachelor in English, literature, and linguistics, and a diploma in French language. Then devastating news with her grandfather, born in Iran. Iraq's neighboring nemesis. She's banned from further study, despite being an Iraqi citizen herself, fate plays its first card. Speaker 2 00:02:55 You can work in anywhere but months. Um, and the official show offices, nothing related to the government I can teach, uh, at the uni and the school can be a teacher. I can go study for a master. So, uh, they broke something inside me, Speaker 1 00:03:15 Uh, to, uh, eventually takes a job as a vocational youth and program officer with the U S backed charity. I R D international relief and development. It pays well and she's in her element helping young victims of conflict, but it's dangerous work. And she travels to volatile areas of Baghdad. Still. She's driven to make a change Speaker 2 00:03:39 All of that reg because it's helped me to change the thinking of a young people. Iraq was till now it's in the middle of a struggling, you know, uh, so many, many young people, they, uh, involved in the, uh, violence things. They stopped killing each other for me and from people in my generation, we try to make, um, a change, um, with life, to both our country, to be, uh, a good, beautiful and secure country. Just, uh, the way that we imagined our country. Uh, it's look like you DRO, uh, a portrait, a nice portrait, you know, uh, so we try to make that change just to build a beautiful country. Just try to imagine that, Speaker 1 00:04:31 But overnight, everything changes. And if you can believe it all because of a fun run, the IRD event is to try to smooth tensions between warring Shiites and Sunni Muslims. Our tour is an organizer and press attention follows. Her name is published in the paper. She's now in the sights of Iraqi officials and they're not happy. Speaker 2 00:04:57 So at that time, people, they hate anyone work with American, the salary or the payment that I get for working in the international event was very high in that time in Iraq. Uh, so I didn't take it seriously. I said, okay, maybe they gonna talk and then gonna stop. Speaker 1 00:05:19 She, so indeed visiting a government office in Baghdad to get some personal paperwork signed, the door is locked behind her. Speaker 2 00:05:28 I feel sorry because all my mom and dad, because they were old, I didn't like to put them in that position to scare, uh, whatever I done. I done full them to secure their life, to live in dignity, to love, to get the money, to bring them food, good food, a good medication, um, everything good for them. So after that, um, I realized that no, this time it's a very serious, um, I have to do something Speaker 1 00:06:04 By a miracle she's eventually set free, but the intimidation doesn't end there. Speaker 2 00:06:11 Two guys came to visit my father. I thought that there were his friend or something like that. So I tried to go outside to say hi. He just waived by hand means, go into don't come out. So after they gone call me, say, okay, uh, now I think it's, um, very serious. Um, uh, they told my dad it's shame on you, that you let your daughter work with the American. And that's mean that you are all against, uh, the, uh, against Iraq and against the people this time. Uh, we, we, we came and peace. We are telling you Jos, don't let your daughter, uh, work with American or the next time we're going to come. And your daughter will be in two bags. Speaker 1 00:07:05 It's enough for a tool and her parents to frantically pack their bags, grabbing bare essentials. They Flay to Lebanon, precious mementos, and more are left behind. As the family run for their life. Speaker 2 00:07:18 I left everything, all my memories. Do you know that I don't have pictures of my childhood? I don't have a pictures of my graduation. I didn't bring my kids. I nothing. All the memories will left everything. I was scared, sad, bulletins. Same time. I was not happy. No, not happy, but I was, I didn't know what that feelings called. That's my mom and dad will be safe. Speaker 1 00:07:50 It's important to note at this point, just why a tool was so protective of her parents, how she desperately wanted to keep them from any emotional pain and suffering you see before she was born, a tour had a baby brother, Sammy. Speaker 2 00:08:06 He born with a difficult and his heart. Um, I think they call it the hole or something came from the first day he born, uh, when they knew about his condition, uh, he wa my mom used to hold him all the time. She didn't let him play walk. Um, it was another good show him to do any activity. So it was very hard. She was a very, uh, connected with him when he reached, uh, six years old, my dad decided to send him to, to UK, uh, for an operation the one day after the operation, um, he passed away and she returned, uh, back from UK to Baghdad, by herself. Her attitude changed because of that, because it was not easy. As I told you, um, till the doctor told my dad that you're going to lose your wife. If she stay like that. So the better way you have to bring your baby, you have to have a baby. So my mother and father, they worked old almost 50 when I born. Yeah, I'm the miracle baby Speaker 1 00:09:24 At all, works hard to settle her parents in Lebanon, her father in a wheelchair, paralyzed from a brain stroke and mom constantly anxious about her daughter's safety in Iraq. A tour was proud of her charity work, but in Lebanon, as a refugee in limbo, the government forbids her to even get a job. She applies to the United nations for permanent residency status, telling them she will be killed. If she returns to Baghdad, while her heart is set on Australia, it's a lottery as to where the family will end up. Speaker 2 00:09:58 My sister lives in here in Australia, and I have a one brother lives in the United States and the other brother lives in a whole lot. So, uh, and two sisters stayed in Iraq. So, uh, when I went to United nation, I didn't have a right to choose which country I have to go Speaker 1 00:10:21 With a written promise to authorities that her ailing father will not be reliant on government welfare instead cared for by family. The deal is done next it's earth shattering news, literally. Speaker 2 00:10:36 So, oh, somebody told me two times. I said, yes, congratulations. You're going to go to Australia. Oh my God. I wasn't very big. And it wasn't prominent in this first floor. So I jumped and I feel the building all shady. I love jump. See, we will go. We will go. Nobody understand what's going, nobody. My dad was screaming. What's going on? Why you are doing that? I was just jumping, jumping every we'll go. It wasn't mixed of a crying and laughing. And oh my God, it was, I can't forget that day. Um, it was a little quiet if you are a good, put it in gay cage and you open the gate for them Speaker 1 00:11:28 In 2011, at-will makes the 14,000 kilometer journey from Lebanon to Sydney, Australia. She's filled with renewed hope. Speaker 2 00:11:38 Some of his day, uh, when we reached the rallier, everything was, um, prepare for us all the services. Um, uh, give it to my father, to my mom. We feel that this country even, uh, give us a visa to come and they love us. They make me feel that I'm a part of this, uh, country, uh, this country except me and my family, this country, it's giving me a chance to start, um, new life. Speaker 1 00:12:11 But optimism soon turns to despair shortly after arriving in Sydney, tour's mother is diagnosed with leukemia. A tour is now a full-time carer to both her parents, a role she plays for the next eight years. Speaker 2 00:12:28 I was at home 24 hours, uh, bad them, change them, cook, fold them. Um, if I want to buy grocery, um, I used to go at night after they, um, sleep. Um, I went to Willy's before they closed, uh, just to buy the grocery two to four the next day. So for eight or nine years, I didn't go outside. It's not easy, but at the same time, when you know that everything that you done, you doughnuts, right? It wasn't, Speaker 3 00:13:04 I think generally when you have people that come into the country, um, it's really about, you know, when they arrive, they have a sense of safety that they're in a new country. Um, but then obviously it's like a honeymoon period. Um, they rather, these students thought the city and, you know, uh, get a job, set up a house, find out transport, everything of the such. It tends to be a lot, much more hotter than they initially thought. So I think that there is a general high when they first arrive, but as it is a change, they have been hoping for it is generally a grace period, but it does wear off. Um, the good news is, is that there's an extensive support network available here to better assist with the transition and assimilation is to the country report, obviously essential in agent services. My name is Pedro Ellison. Um, I work in Fairford with metrics. I'm a site manager in job active employment services. Um, I've been working for the company for six years and ultimately what we do is we help job seekers overcome their barriers and find meaningful long-term employment. Speaker 1 00:14:09 Peter Albertans case files are filled with tales of trauma and heartbreak, but also of hope and resilience it's through targeted programs like kickstart for refugees that Peter and his project team at MatchWorks are able to help vulnerable job seekers find sustainable work. That matters Speaker 3 00:14:28 Kickstart is a tailored goal-setting and mentoring program that covers a range of topics, including developing employment pathways, setting smart goals, establishing action plans to work towards achieving those goals and increasing motivation. And self-esteem Speaker 1 00:14:43 In fact, Peter knows firsthand how hard and emotionally challenging it can be for refugees settling in Australia in the 1970s, his mother Paulette fled to Australia with her immediate family from war-torn Lebanon. She was just 16. The fighting may have ended, but another battle had begun Speaker 3 00:15:04 When my mom first came here. Um, she obviously left Lebanon, um, awhile ago over there, there was, um, obviously civil wars that were breaking down and whatnot. So her adjustment period was quite similar to what a lot of the people were obviously feeling now, even though it's from Iraq, if it's from Syria, um, when she did arrive here, it was initial shock. She had to obviously leave her larger family who she was very accustomed to. Um, if you're familiar with a lot of the Arab community, um, they're very accustomed to having very large families and bathing really intricate interconnected. So, um, obviously adjusting here and having to move the main purpose was to have a greater safety net and have that land of opportunity. They're obviously hoping for, so as simulating it to the country and having 12 to see, leave the education behind, but have a greater sense of security, safety, and really progress with, you know, the land of opportunity and have the greater enhancement of, um, opportunities that are here and available to jump into Speaker 1 00:16:03 It's his own mother's journey that has inspired Peter to do the work he does today. His MatchWorks office is in Fairfield, in Sydney's west, the so-called refugee capital of Australia, the city council, resettles the largest number of humanitarian migrants in Australia, more than half a million since world war two, it's a sanctuary as well as a place of opportunity. Speaker 3 00:16:27 I feel like a lot of it was working. Obviously we've been fearful in the community here. It's a lot of the same type of experiences that people obviously have. And it's a lot of that same background, the same background that I have, and it's really about these people being interconnected. And it really helps drive my passion, working with Fairfield and really being strong and hoping a lot of job seekers I've become the barriers and really being into connected within the community here, Speaker 1 00:16:54 Which leads us back to our tour, nursing her parents until their deaths she's left alone, emotionally drained thinking it's easier to help someone else rather than help herself. She volunteers at the Assyrian Australian association assisting refugees to fill in forms and refer them to services. She manages some part time study and complaints, a diploma in community services and another in counseling. But when a job comes up in aged care, old demons surface, Speaker 2 00:17:26 I asked him one more push away. Um, I changed a lot, so it was a shock from me. My father passed away and all this feelings and thoughts. Uh, I had it. So, um, I didn't know the system. Well, I have to do, does the job, uh, provide that I have to find me a job or I have to apply by myself. I didn't have all these things. I didn't have any information. So I search online. I find, um, uh, a nursing home or a, some offices that relate to the HQ. Uh, she told me you're very qualified. Uh, and we accept you. I got caught with was a shock. How can I deal if I, so any old men, women, I, that remind me of my parents and that start crying, how can I deal with them? Speaker 1 00:18:25 In June, 2020? Our tour is finally referred to match works, kickstart program. It changes her life. It not only helps with the skills like writing cover letters and resumes, but goes deeper, exploring emotional barriers around her job, hunting through its health and wellbeing service, our tour's confidence returns. And with the added bonus of losing 78 kilograms through lap band surgery, she's ready to take on the world. Soon enough opportunity comes knocking a job as a refugee liaison officer at MatchWorks Fairfield office in Sydney, Peter Alberton conducts the interview with Heather as a Hori MatchWorks national projects and relationships manager. Speaker 3 00:19:09 A total really stood out to me because at the time I did have a lot of the community connections that I was familiar with. And she mentioned that she had in-depth titles of some of them as well. And then she obviously volunteered for two years at the Assyrian Australian association has been, she was already helping them out in referrals to services, filling out forms, helping them adjust to a Shirleen where I've lost. So to me, this is what I was looking for in connecting with the kickstart refugee program, because she really showed a deeper connection that she was able to bring us someone quite passionate and embedded within the community. And it could really help continue this program in the right direction. Speaker 1 00:19:46 Plus she also had lived experience. That must have been a great bonus too. Speaker 3 00:19:52 Absolutely. You know, lives lived experience. There's really good side to this as well with clients newcomers coming into the program and working with her. It's really that sense of being on the other side of the table, that Besos, that trust and belief for people that are sitting there and then seeing the toll of how far she's come and being able to connect deeper with them and say that, you know, if she can do it, then I can do it too. Speaker 1 00:20:16 It may have taken close to three decades, but finally our tour had the job of her dreams. Speaker 2 00:20:23 Uh, I wish I know a word that described that feeling would after all that. Um, I remember the day that, uh, Fatuma told me, um, they have this position just apply. I said, okay, I don't have experience. Um, they wouldn't accept Mesa just apply. So what I tried and Heather called me first time since my mom passed away, I jump does smile and love in the same time, cry and same time, Speaker 1 00:21:02 What's it like when you help people? And when they say our tour, thank you, thank you so much. Speaker 2 00:21:08 It made me feel, uh, happy. Uh, it made me feel that, um, uh, I'm doing the right thing, not just I done the right thing with my parents. Uh, I'm doing the right thing for the people Speaker 1 00:21:26 I chose appreciation for her new working life continues on a daily basis. Speaker 3 00:21:32 That's all has been extremely grateful since we've given her the opportunity and the gratitude has not shown just on any one point of time. It's, it's Shen daily and this is real kind of adding quite the motherly touch to the office. You know, she would make Arabic coffee for everyone in the mornings, in the afternoons. She also brings in Lebanese sweets all the time for everyone. So she brought it in today as well. So it's really, it's the same consistent blessing. And that's all we really got to have PA you know, it's food to say that the gratitude doesn't change remains unchanged, even after the full mom's been working from home, coming back. And it's still the same. Speaker 1 00:22:03 How has working changed you as a person, Speaker 2 00:22:07 As a person now? I'm more confidence before I hide in my room, especially after my mom passed away. Um, no, no. I'd like to be more socialized. Uh, I'm more confidence. Um, I like to help people more low confidence, more strong, um, most thinking about the good way, um, more use my brain, um, just think to take steps to help others. Speaker 1 00:22:42 What do you think your mum would say if she was here? Speaker 2 00:22:49 Um, she got to say, I'm proud of you. And, um, you are doing good, more hangar Speaker 1 00:23:14 At all, may carry the scars of a traumatic life, but by sharing her pain, she's making powerful change, not just by healing herself, but inspiring others. Her lived experience is vital for her role as a refugee liaison officer with MatchWorks since starting she's engaged over 200 refugee job seekers into the goal setting program and completed more than 250 mentoring sessions, proof of her ability to establish rapport and build trust her lived experience, giving genuine hope as newcomers embark on their own employment journey. Watching her grow in her new role has been an enriching experience Speaker 3 00:23:58 Singer tour with how far she's coming from starting work from that initial interview from, you know, her first couple of days, but then she's transitioned so strongly with the confidence in herself. She's become an advocate for the refugee community in Fairfield. She has inspired so many people were for personal story of struggle and assimilating into the Australian way of life. And ultimately when we looked back at the interview and just speaking of Heather on it, that's what we'll end to do with the kickstart refugee program really had that deeper connection embedded in the community Speaker 1 00:24:27 As for the future. Well, a tour is happy to just live in the moment, helping to make change in the lives of those. So desperate for a safe, fresh start in a land of opportunity. But then again, you can take the girl out of Baghdad university, but she can't take university out of the girl. Speaker 2 00:24:46 I want to improve myself more. And my job I'm planning to study online and work. Um, I don't want to leave my work, but in same time, I'd like to study online, um, uh, Buscher of counseling. I would like to, um, help more people as far as future. Um, I want to buy a house just to feel that, um, I done something, uh, in my life. Speaker 1 00:25:19 You've been listening to breaking barriers and original podcast series designed to smash misconceptions around the employment of vulnerable Australians. A Testament to the positive impact employment can play in our lives with 140 sites across Australia. Whether you're looking for a job, all looking for staff match works quite simply brings people together. Speaker 1 00:25:52 Breaking barriers is a podcast production from MatchWorks Australia's trusted employment specialists connect today. Change tomorrow. If you found value in this episode, subscribe and share. So we can keep telling these inspiring stories and for more unmatched works, log on to matchworks.com.edu forward slash breaking barriers. I'm not joins. Thanks so much for listening.

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