Work & Welcome program steps in at crucial time for refugees fleeing conflict

By: Dominic Sullivan   |   Director of the PAYCE Foundation

Between conflict in Ukraine and the continuing unrest in Sri Lanka the need to help desperate refugees has never been greater. Australians are increasingly keen to open their hearts and their homes to refugees and PAYCE Foundation proudly supports a unique initiative offering shelter and employment opportunities for people in need.  

Work & Welcome is a project of House of Welcome (HoW) who welcome, shelter and empower people seeking asylum and refugees. Work & Welcome assists participants to be job ready with work experience and employment opportunities in supportive host organisations. 

Newly appointed Work & Welcome Project Officer Andreina Lugo is quick to credit the program with changing her life for the better and PAYCE Foundation is proud to be part of her success story and to fund her position.

Andreina had completed a law degree and was studying political science in Venezuela when she was forced to leave her home country and flee to Australia. “We were systematically losing our rights in every sense,” she explains. The Venezuelan migration and refugee crisis is the largest refugee crisis in the Americas and has seen the displacement of millions of people. 

Despite an enormous sense of relief in finding a new sense of safety, it was difficult for Andreina to secure a job and she found herself in a “very, very bad place” mentally. The House of Welcome came to her rescue and with their support she has been appointed in a new position as the Work & Welcome Project Officer with host school St Patrick’s College Strathfield in Sydney.

“Getting this job here, you get the opportunity as well to show your skills and everything you have,” she said. “I really believe in this program because this program, for me, changed my life here in Australia.” 

Gillian Daley, Director of Identify at St Patrick’s College said the Work & Welcome program helped tackle a common problem for refugees in not having the right work experience to be considered competitive and job ready.

“One of the biggest stumbling blocks for all of them is that companies want people with experience, and they want people who understand the Australian workforce,” Gillian said. 

“Work & Welcome excited me with the possibility of what we could do to help those who are most in need. The program offers refugees and asylum seekers the opportunity to get Australian work experience and it pays them at a fair and reasonable wage. In addition to that it gives them work experience in Australia that they can put on a CV.”

Gillian said staff support for the program at St Patrick’s College has grown from strength to strength with staff members making regular contributions through a salary sacrifice arrangement as a commitment to workplace giving for House of Welcome.

“It is an optional activity, and it can be slow to start with but once it gets momentum it becomes part of the fabric of the place and I can’t imagine us not having this program,” she said. 

The PAYCE Foundation is dedicated to giving every person the opportunity to reach their full potential.

There is not better example of that than the Work & Welcome program. 

Not only does it change the life of graduates, but also gives refugees the opportunity to get work and build a life for themselves.

Aug. 12, 2022

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