Meet Jean Al Taweel, Migrant & Refugee Settlement Support Volunteer

North Coast Settlement Services volunteer, Jean Al Taweel, uses her experience as a refugee to support new arrivals.  

What is your volunteer role at Vinnies NSW?

I am a Migrant & Refugee Settlement Support Volunteer at North Coast Settlement Service in Coffs Harbour.

How long you have been volunteering with Vinnies NSW?

I started in April of this year (2023). Before that, I used to work with Settlement Services International (SSI) in Coffs Harbour, and before that, since 2014, I worked with Anglicare North Coast when they had the Humanitarian Settlement (HSP) Program contract in Northern NSW.

Why Vinnies?  

Because I know the clients as I used to work with them in my old jobs. I picked them up from the airport when they arrived in Australia, and I helped with their orientation. They know and trust me. Because I come from a refugee background myself and because I know their difficult experiences before they came to Australia. I also understand their settlement challenges after they arrive. I can help with my language skills and can assist in solving problems when I am here.

What has been your volunteering highlight so far?

It’s helping people. For example, yesterday I went with a client to another service to get some assistance with getting an Australian driving license. She was so happy to have this problem finally solved!

What do you like to do when you’re not volunteering?  

 My hobby has always been gardening and I have many plants. I am a member of The Orchid Society and I love orchids, gardenias, magnolias, hoyas… I am interested in how some plants grow differently here than in Iraq. Arabic Jasmine flowers grow more often in Australia, but the flowers are smaller and have less scent. My unit and my garage are full of plants. It was also this way before, when I was in Iraq.

What is your favourite book OR film OR piece of music and why?

I used to read many books before in Arabic, but I don’t read as much now because I always need to read English books with the dictionary!

What would you say to members of the public considering volunteering with Vinnies?

Vinnies helps so many people in so many different ways. If you are interested, you should try it. There will always be something that you can do and you will learn many things.

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