For the first time since restrictions eased the women of the Ethnic Council’s Friendship Café gathered face-to-face at the Aussie Hotel for their final catch-up of the year.
They were joined by a few members of the Ethnic Council including project officer Aleena Qazikhil, who heads the program, and guest speakers Salvation Army Doorways team leader Megan Waters and manager for homelessness services Omeni Ndlovu.
“It’s a great connection between the ladies and the speaker,” Aleena said.
“It’s not formal and it’s a great way to counter the social isolation when they first arrive.”
Aleena said when the women first arrive they are isolated at home, and the program, which has been running for the last five years, is a good way to get them active with their old communities.
“It was a wonderful outlet, especially during COVID-19, because they had so many responsibilities on top of being in a new place,” she said.
Over the lockdown period the group remained connected via Zoom, which Aleena said presented its own challenges, but they made it through.
“We meet once a month, face-to-face or online,” she said.
“Some of the women have kids so we try and make some catch-ups kid-friendly.”
Group catch-ups are also often accompanied by guest speakers from a range of vocations, including former City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Seema Abdullah.
“The ladies choose what they want to hear about and let me know and I go out and find someone who can meet those needs,” Aleena said.