Often, the best way to learn is through stories: people share knowledge and form communities through this elemental form of communication.
Diaspora Action Australia (DAA) hosted an event on 16 September in which 15 individuals from eight diaspora groups shared their stories for mutual understanding, growth and empowerment.
Lisa Vettori, DAA’s community engagement coordinator, facilitated the event, assisted by community support worker, Evelina Gyulkhandanya. The event was attended by people from the South Sudanese, Hazara, Congolese, Somali, Iranian and Oromo communities.
The event was created because DAA has observed that different diaspora groups, facing the same challenges, often have similar questions and concerns.
“We thought it would be good if we brought these groups together and created a platform for them to share their experience and practices,” states Evelina. This first networking event covered two main topics: stories of project successes (and instructive failures), and tips on fundraising. DAA distributed materials to participants, including articles and presentations.
“What was most interesting about the meeting was that, in certain areas, these groups have more varied and comprehensive knowledge than that found in the literature,” notes Evelina.
Spirited discussions ranged from media and fundraising to technology. For example, while one organisation enthused about how local and international media publicised and bolstered their project, another group stated that their venture was actually hindered by resistant media and government.
Groups new to fundraising learnt innovative ideas, ranging from auctioning pictures on Facebook to requesting in-kind services in lieu of actual cash. As an extra bonus, DAA has emailed each participating group an electronic list of relevant philanthropic organisations that may be able to help them.
Participants honestly assessed the challenges in implementing long-distance projects. They agreed that relying on the internet is often a problem, and the time between emails can be days or weeks. However, most participants agreed that staff and volunteers alike are committed to completing a project, even when faced with difficulties.
DAA Director, Denise Cauchi, shared her experience in negotiating the intricacies of the Australian taxation scheme. Participants not only appreciated the information but have also requested a separate seminar that specifically deals with this issue.
The main critique of the evening was that the event was too short, and that participants wanted more sessions in the future. Ali Nazari, vice president of the Noor Foundation, summed up people’s sentiment: “I have learned a lot from this event and I am sure others [have done so], too. I will share all that I have taken . . . with the Noor Foundation members and committee.”
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