Baptcare's Christmas Appeal: Sara's story

In Victoria today, 13,665 people are still awaiting decisions on their applications for protection visas. Many of these people are homeless because they have no legal work rights and are ineligible for government financial support.

Baptcare is one of the few organisations offering transitional housing for people seeking asylum.

Through our Sanctuary program and thanks to donations from the public, Baptcare houses and supports almost 100 men, women and children seeking asylum.

People like Sara and her children.

Arriving in Australia was life-changing but bittersweet for Sara. It meant leaving behind her home country where she and her family faced daily abuse, could be stoned for their religious beliefs, and were at risk of being trafficked into slavery.

Her new home, Australia, represented freedom and hope.

“Australia was so quiet,” Sara* said. “It was strange for me to be so quiet and free. I felt very good.”

Up to that point in her life, Sara’s life had been very challenging and she had lost hope. But arriving in Australia carried its own issues.

Sara had left behind her husband and arrived in a foreign country with no work rights and no other sources of income. She couldn’t afford rent and her daughters faced homelessness. Her future looked bleak until she was referred to Baptcare for help.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Sara about her first experience with Baptcare.

“I didn’t expect that they would help me. I thought I was finished. Since I moved into the Houses of Hope, I feel so good.”

Today, Sara is also connected to Baptcare’s volunteer network which provides neighbourly help. While this social and practical support is vital, Sara knows that her arrangement is not long-term, and she is looking forward to working and enjoying the freedom that living in Australia offers.

Ten years after arriving, Sara is still awaiting a final outcome on her application for protection in Australia and still awaiting a reunion with her husband. Meanwhile she has no access to government support, Medicare, Centrelink and no work rights.

“I can work – they just won’t let me,” Sara said. “I want to work. I talk to myself and tell myself that one day soon my life will be normal.”

Sara is grateful for all that Baptcare has done for her. “I want to say a big thank you, and that I really appreciate all the help. It has changed my life.”

Our Houses of Hope program offers safe, suitable and secure housing for people seeking asylum who have experienced, or are at risk of, homelessness, like Sara and her children.

If you can, please give a Hand Up this Christmas to people seeking asylum like Sara.

*Name/photo changed for privacy reasons