Refugee volunteer giving back

18 May 2023
Community and Social Participation

This week we are celebrating National Volunteer Week, and we wish to thank all the volunteers that give their time and energy to make change in our community. 

This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is ‘The Change Makers’, highlighting the powerful impact volunteers make supporting individuals, communities and the nation.

In celebration of the date, we will share stories of our amazing volunteers. Today, we share the story of Khadija Karimi. 


For Afghan refugee Khadija Karimi, volunteering is a way of giving back to the country that gave her refuge when she had to flee the Taliban’s takeover of her homeland.

As a woman, she would not have been able to continue her work as ateacher under the fundamentalist regime.

Sponsored by her sister and brother-in-law, both doctors working in regional Victoria, she arrived in Australia in 2005.

And after studying at the Gippsland Education Centre in Warragul, Khadija secured a job in local kindergarten.

“In Afghanistan I studied Economics and Management. I was running a small school and I was teaching two classes. But when the Taliban came to power it became difficult and dangerous for me,” Khadija said.

“My sister sponsored me so I could come to Australia and find safety,” she said.

Khadija moved to Dandenong, in Melbourne’s south east, with her sister and brother in 2008 and when rheumatoid arthritis meant she could no longer work, she began volunteering with refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia.

“It is physically difficult for me to work but can volunteer, so I do,” Khadija said.

“I love volunteering to support people who are newly arrived to Australia. I have travelled that journey myself so I understand the problems they can face,” she said.

“Currently, I am supporting low-level learners at AMES in Narre Warren. And every Saturday I teach at a local community centre where I live in Dandenong South.

“But it is role that gives you lots of variety. I help translate workbooks for language students, I support people learning to navigate life in Australia such as with driving lessons or school enrolment.

“I have travelled into the city with groups who are new to Australia to help them, explore and find the services they need.

“I really enjoy volunteering because it is the best way I can contribute to Australia – a country that has given me so much,” Khadija said.

But another motivation for Khadija is seeing newly arrived people, many for her own homeland, start to build lives in Australia.

“The best thing is seeing people start to build new lives and start to flourish. And it is very rewarding to help people start to see how they can contribute to Australia,” she said.