Dialog Box

From fleeing war to helping others

At the age of 13, Vakshana fled from the civil war in Sri Lanka with her mother and two siblings. 

They spent a challenging 42 days at sea on a small boat among over 100 others, with little food, little space and no privacy. "Our boat size was really tiny. So you can’t sleep. You had to sit like this *foetal position upright* for 42 days," Vakshana explained.

The boat trip was a scary journey for Vakshana and her family. They travelled through storms, where they were required to throw their luggage and water supplies overboard to stop the boat from sinking. When they began to run out of food, Vakshana's mother sacrificed her own portions for her children. And when people started to lose hope, they would jump overboard.

On the 38th day of their journey, the boat's motor broke down, and they were left floating for several days until they were found near Christmas Island.

Despite the terrifying journey Vakshana experienced, she caught me by surprise when she also touched on the positives from her journey, displaying her hope and positivity - "My journey was hard… 42 days, no food. It was pretty hard but the sunsets were amazing. I’ve seen the best sunsets ever in my life."

Relieved to finally be on land, Vakshana received her first meal in days and a new set of clothes. The family then spent five months across three refugee camps, until they were transferred to Adelaide to begin their new life.

“When I arrived I did not know English, so when people asked me what’s my name I’d just laugh. It was pretty difficult... they would look at me like I’m crazy.“

Vakshana and her family eventually moved to Victoria, but in doing so they no longer had support - this is when Vakshana discovered CatholicCare’s Geelong Settle Well program. Here she found support to apply for a scholarship in tertiary education, along with financial help for university and other practical supports.

“I didn’t know anything about scholarships at the start ... Since I met my case manager it was a big help! He was like my teacher.”

Vakshana just received a scholarship for her second year of her psychology degree with the help and support of her CatholicCare case manager. Vakshana is determined to finish her course, often spending three to four hours of travel daily to get to and from her university. "Fight for yourself!" says Vakshana. "If you want to get that level of whatever you want, you have to fight for it, so I’m trying!"

"CatholicCare has helped me with lots of things such as [applying for] this scholarship - I have it all because of my case manager from CatholicCare. I am really thankful to him and the service for helping out through the difficult time."


Liz Gellel | Communications Coordinator


“When I arrived I did not know English, so when people asked me what’s my name I’d just laugh. It was pretty difficult... they would look at me like I’m crazy.“

Vakshana

Refugee


Read more 85th anniversary stories


24 September 2020
Category: Blog
Tags:
Donate