HELPING HAND: Buddies on the beach. (LtoR) Kayla Szumer, coordinating teacher Margaret Norris, Mooloolaba life saving manager Sally Taylor, and asylum seekers Milad and Abozare.
HELPING HAND: Buddies on the beach. (LtoR) Kayla Szumer, coordinating teacher Margaret Norris, Mooloolaba life saving manager Sally Taylor, and asylum seekers Milad and Abozare. Patrick Woods

Refugee welcome zone: Sunshine Coast opens its doors

IT'S a community program founded on compassion rather than fear and is making a real difference this week to real people whose lives have been caught up in turmoil and conflict.

Sunshine Coast families have opened their homes this week to asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Vietnam and India, an exchange that is lifting spirits on both sides.

In the process people who have fled war zones and terror are learning more about a country they would like to call home.


RELATED: Refugee Welcome Zone push for Sunshine Coast


A diverse group of nine asylum seekers and their families are here as part of a Buddies program aimed at providing insight into the Australian way of life.

Buddies' cultural exchanges over the past four years are unravelling the mysteries of a new environment for 177 asylum to date with a further two programs planned for this year.

Coordinating teacher Margaret Norris and Mooloolaba life saving manager Sally taylor.
Coordinating teacher Margaret Norris and Mooloolaba life saving manager Sally taylor. Patrick Woods

All have been hosted in the homes of Buddies' members including a Sri Lankan family of five who are spending the week at Flaxton.

Anne Cameron of Mount Coolum admits she and her husband Don aren't particularly active Buddies members but said they had a home that was ideally set up to host people.

"We have one man with us from India and it's been wonderful to observe the changes,'' she said.

"Observation of the whole group can see the incredible impact this is having. They've been welcomed into homes and have had the opportunity of support."

The week opened at the program's Solutions 4 Learning base in Nambour with exploration of the cultural differences between Australia and the home countries of the asylum seekers.

That was followed by an explanation about Australia's unique indigenous animals, sessions on music and the arts and the beach which included advice from Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club about surf safety.

On Tuesday night a multicultural dinner featured signature dishes from each of the asylum seeker home countries.

This week is the first time Buddies has run the education program itself, drawing on the skills of Tesol teachers and retired school teachers among its members to write a curriculum.

Would you consider hosting refugees in your home?

This poll ended on 14 April 2016.

Current Results

Yes. Sometimes everyone needs a helping hand.

25%

No. I wouldn't feel comfortable with strangers in my home.

70%

I'd have to think more about it.

4%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

The group will run another two similar courses this year.

"It's been a wonderful exchange,'' Buddies spokeswoman Kayla Szumer said.

Kayla said Buddies had received more offers to host families than were needed.



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