Photo: Mukhles and his daughter participating in a problem-solving activity at an RDK Weekend.
In October 2018 CatholicCare held a weekend camp for refugee dads and their kids, which focused on strengthening the father-child bond by providing a range of fun and interesting activities.
One of the fathers who attended, named Mukhles, learnt about the weekend away from his brother who had participated in a previous weekend. Mukhles kindly shared his story with us and discussed what his life was like in Iraq before he arrived in Australia in 2016.
Life before Australia
For Mukhles and his family, conflict and war was a part of regular life in Iraq. Their town was occupied by Isis, and religious persecution was rampant.
As a Christian family they feared for their safety, and so they found their way to Australia to escape the conflict.
As anyone would be, Mukhles was worried about what it would be like to start a new life and make new connections and friendships. ‘You need to feel like you belong,’ he said. ‘It’s not easy.’
Mukhles could speak some English upon arriving in Australia, but his wife could not. This made it particularly difficult for her, and for the other family members that had little English skills.
When his children started school they were thankfully supported with a language skills program, which helped them to settle well into the new environment.
Mukhles is currently living in a house with seven other family members, including his four children and his parents.
The weekend away
Mukhles has attended the Refugee Dads and Kids (RDK) Weekend on several occasions, each time bringing along a different child. ‘It is nice to stop life for a breather,’ he mentioned. ‘It gives us a chance to refreshen relationships with our kids. Life is busy here, and so you can forget the basics of building strong relationships.’
Mukhles said that he feels closer with his children during and after the camp, as it gives them a chance to truly connect through the daily activities run across the weekend. He even said that his favourite part about the camp was that he and his child discovered more about each other and found that his children were more interested to learn about his life before they were born, after attending the RDK Weekend.
Mukhles is busy studying, volunteering and working, and he is president of the Syriac Association in Geelong, supporting new arrivals in the area.
‘We didn’t have these activities in Iraq – the people at CatholicCare have made a positive impact on our lives, and so we hope to give back to the community.’
“It gives us a chance to refreshen relationships with our kids."
CatholicCare Refugee Dads and Kids program participant
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