Early on a Saturday morning, four eager UQ and Griffith students, as well as Minnie and myself, departed our homes for the long drive to Toowoomba. Why travel to such a distant corner of the world, you ask? Healthy Start, of course! Our arduous journeys were immediately rewarded with the smiling faces of the 2 interpreters and 20 Afghani and Pakistani women we would spend our day with.
The women were divided into the two language groups, with one interpreter and 2 students assigned to each. Tea and biscuits provided a cozy, nurturing atmosphere, allowing everyone to quickly relax. We presented a number of topics throughout the day, including General Health, Nutrition, Women’s Health and our newly-written module, Mental Health, during which we heard poignant stories of past experiences and shared tips about the help available as well as self-care strategies. The Women’s Health session in particular was a huge hit, with lots of laughter and chatter as the women learnt about prevention, screening and diagnosis of common complaints.
With the “refugee crisis” so often making media headlines, it can be easy to forget that these are simply people, just like you and I, who have fled war or persecution to seek safety for themselves and their children. Speaking to the women about their journeys, receiving a beautiful henna tattoo, and playing with the kids that were brought along cemented my conviction that we share far more similarities than differences and served as a powerful reminder of our need to provide support to our fellow humans.
As a child of Russian migrants, I know how difficult it is to start a life in a new country where everything- the language, the culture, the public services- are foreign. Healthy Start is a brilliant opportunity for students to break down barriers, destroy misconceptions, and perhaps even make a small impact on the lives of these newest Australians.
Words by Dasha Soldatov