Homeless to changemaker

A Baptcare Sanctuary client is giving back to the community that gave him a home.

After fleeing Pakistan, Kashif sought asylum in Australia in 2010. His asylum claim was later accepted following years of uncertainty and numerous appeals. Kashif now has a bright future ahead after recently completing a Bachelor of Nursing degree at RMIT University.

“When I came here I saw different (medical) facilities available compared to (Pakistan). Back home sometimes people would die with very small problems because of a lack of facilities. After I got my permanent residency visa, I wanted to contribute back to Australia and do something to make a contribution back home too,” Kashif said.

With goals to set up a small medical facility in the Pakistani village he hails from, Kashif sought to pursue a career that would give him the experience and expertise to help people in need. After sending his resume to Baptcare’s Hedley Sutton Community, he was soon offered a job as a Personal Care Assistant with plans to become a practicing nurse this year.

“If there’s something you can do for people, bring comfort to their life, or even spend an hour making their life better, then you live a better life,” Kashif said as he recalls the day he discussed his career options with his older brother.

“My brother is a Chartered Accountant and he asked me if I wanted a career to make money or to make a difference, because if it was money, there are other things I can do,” he said.

“I told him that I wasn’t after the money and just wanted to make a difference and when he heard that he asked me to go for it.”

Having studied in Urdu in Pakistan, Kashif made it a priority to learn English after arriving in Australia. Despite not having access to English language classes, he was able to quickly pick up the language by “reading newspapers and talking to people”.

As a client of Baptcare’s Sanctuary program, Kashif also had access to the program’s Chaplain, a person he credits as his mentor and friend.

“When I came to Baptcare I got the right direction. Sarah* (the chaplain) gave me a lot of support, not only spiritual, but emotional as well. I still keep in touch with her – she supported me a lot through my journey and because of her I am where I am now after coming from nothing,” he said.

Baptcare’s Sanctuary program opened in Brunswick in 2008 in response to the growing impact of homelessness on people seeking asylum in the community. Kashif is one of hundreds of asylum seekers who have lived at Sanctuary.

Our Sanctuary clients are often people who eagerly want to become productive members of the community but suffer homelessness, poverty, stress and mental health issues due to delays in immigration processing, inadequate support and a lack of study and work rights.

Having overcome many of these barriers, Kashif is keen to support other people seeking asylum and currently works as a volunteer for the Sanctuary program. By sharing his own story and empathizing with others who have often gone through harrowing life experiences, Kashif has been able to mentor other young people to become positive citizens of the Australian community.

He has also made great strides at the Hedley Sutton Community and was recently offered a full-time nursing job at St Vincent’s Hospital – a role he hopes will give him the experience to eventually assist people with a disability.

“I had family members with disability and the way they lived was extremely hard so it’s definitely an issue that close to my heart,” he said.

Assisting others comes as second nature to Kashif, a quality he attributes to his belief that it’s important for us as a society to step out of our comfort zones and help those in need.

“At the end of the day we’re all going to leave here empty handed so what matters is the impact we’ve made.”

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* Name changed for privacy