During the COVID-19 lockdowns AMES Australia volunteer Nehal Elazazy was a vital connection to the world for the newly arrived refugees and migrants she was supporting.
A migrant herself, who arrived from Egypt in 2015, Nehal understood the difficulties people face arriving in a new country with few connections and little English.
“In 2020, with the COVID lockdowns, things were difficult for everyone. I was tutoring Arabic-speaking new arrivals with AMES. It was rewarding to be able to provide a connection for people,” Nehal said.
“And it was good for me to be able to communicate with people,” she said.
“Earlier, I volunteered as an English tutor in 2017 and 2018 with Chinese and Arabic speaking people setting out on new lives in Australia.
“More recently I have been supporting people to understand how the public transport system works and how to use a Myki card and also with things like medical appointments,” she said.
Nehal came to Australia as the partner of a skilled visa holder.
“I did some English courses and some work skills courses and then my AMES teacher Chris offered me some volunteer work.
“I decided I would volunteer to pay back what Australia had done for me. I knew how difficult things were for people at first with little English and I had received help from people at AMES.
“After my early experiences, I felt like I should do something to contribute and to help people arriving in Australia, especially refugees from Arabic-speaking backgrounds. We have seen a big number of people arrive from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and I have supported some of these.”
Nehal says she has had some wonderful experiences supporting her mentees.
“There is one man I supported remotely with English tutoring during COVID whom I am still in touch with. Abeer was from Iraq and we formed a good friendship and still talk, wishing each other ‘Happy Ramadan’ or ‘Happy New Year’,” Nehal said.
“There was another older lady who was struggling to navigate the health system.
“I was able to help her book doctors and medical appointments and she was so happy to get some help,” she said.
Nehal’s day job is as receptionist with health service provider BUPA, a role which also sees her new arrivals to Australia.
“I work with immigrants to help them with their medical checks and to help them on their medical journeys,” she said.
“Just like my volunteering at AMES, it is very rewarding to be helping people start their new lives in Australia,” Nehal said.