Success in the workplace looks different for all of us, but for Sahba Hamid, success means there are no barriers between refugee and asylum seeker children and their early education.
For two years, Sahba has been at the heart of Access’ facilitation of a State Government-funded pilot program to help these children and their families navigate the early childhood education system, and increase their participation in kindergarten and playgroups.
“In 2017, the Government observed that very few children from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds were accessing kindergarten and consequently, lacked some crucial skills when they entered prep and school,” she said.
“The Refugee and Asylum Seeker Early Childhood (RASEC) team at Access’ overall aim is build up these parents so they understand how to support their children’s development and education.
So what exactly does a day look like for Sahba and her team?
“I manage two teachers - one delivers playgroup programs for children and their families, and the other is English as a Language and Dialect (EALD) teacher, who provides English lessons out of Access’ five Community Hubs in Logan. “Our EALD lessons focus on teaching parents the necessary English needed to support their children, such as how to enrol them in kindergarten and school.
“The playgroups focus on the child as a whole, improving their social, emotional, language and literacy skills, and fine and gross motor skills.”
Sabha also coordinates kindergarten enrolments for children and families who are referred to her by RASEC teachers and Community Hub leaders.
“So much support is available for families to help them understand what can sometimes be a very confusing system,” she said.
“We can help complete waitlist and enrolment forms, provide language support, link families to kindy staff through orientation sessions, organise bi-cultural support, refer children to the relevant support services if they need it and even help cover the cost of kindy.”
Sahba is passionate about helping every child in the RASEC program, but there is one particular case which sticks in her mind.
“This one child attended kindergarten for a year, and sadly really struggled and was not ready for prep, so she was referred to me for support,” she said.
“We enrolled her in another kindergarten, and the kindy teacher, the Community Hub leader and I worked together to ensure the child received all the support she needed, such as the Early Childhood Early Intervention program.
“Language was one of the major barriers for this family, so I made sure an interpreter was booked for the mother in every session so she could communicate and feel empowered.
“The reason this case sticks out to me is this child waited a very long time to get the support she needed but the parents were very patient.
“With our combined work, the child was eventually able to make it through all the assessments to access the services and support she needed, and get the most out of her early education.
“That’s why the RASEC programs and Access’ work at the hubs are so important – not only do they help children be happy, healthy and ready for school, but they help families feel confident and empowered to give their children the support they need.
“With the right staff, resources and funding, we can really make a difference in the lives of refugee and asylum seeker children.”
Access facilitates several programs in Community Hubs in Logan and Ipswich areas, bringing together education, health and settlement services in a friendly, safe environment.
To find out more, visit https://www.accesscommunity.org.au/community_hubs
Please note - Due the current COVID-19 pandemic, Community Hubs are moving to an online platform, and will reopen in due course, to continue the critical work they do for the many individuals who rely upon them. You can find Community Hubs via Facebook by searching ‘Community Hubs Logan’ or ‘Community Hubs Ipswich’.