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Just keep swimming: How Jeanine rebuilt her future

9 Mar, 2020

Just keep swimming: How Jeanine rebuilt her future

Sports educator Jeanine left a volatile situation in East Africa for Australia four years ago. With minimal English and community connections, her new environment had safety, but also many challenges.

She arrived at the Asylum Seekers Centre needing accommodation and medical treatment. Jeanine was engaged in many activities while waiting for her refugee status to be recognised by the government. 

Once she was on her feet, she threw herself into the centre’s recreational activities – taking every class she could including learning guitar, sewing, gardening – hoping to improve her English and gain skills that would make her employable.

“The little things were big for me. Every little thing I did gave me skills or opportunities – for jobs, friends, whatever,” she says.

Her persistence paid off. She has been successful in obtaining numerous jobs – including her current roles as a swimming teacher and as a support worker for people with disabilities. 

“All of those programs, and the employment service as well, have helped a lot with getting confidence and getting jobs,” she says.

“When I work with people with disabilities, I play guitar, and then they’re happy. If they want someone to work in the garden, I just go in the garden.”

Trained as a physical education teacher, Jeanine took an interest in swimming classes offered by the centre.

She completed three swimming teaching certificates supported by the ASC, and began instructing at a local aquatic centre for people seeking asylum and local children.

The work has allowed Jeanine to reconnect with her passion.

“I love teaching very much. I always get feedback from the parents, get feedback from the boss, that I’m a good teacher,” she says.

This year, Jeanine received life-changing news – the Australian government has recognised her refugee status and she has a protection visa. 

“I feel that I’m not a visitor now, I’m an Australian. 

“Before you get protection, it’s hard to be involved with the community – you hear stories about unsuccessful visa applications, you lose hope.

“Now there’s nothing to worry about. I can start planning my life, start enjoying my life.”

Looking to the future, Jeanine hopes to study at university and reunite with her children. She hopes that one day she will return to the centre as a volunteer physiotherapist.

“I’m thankful for the Asylum Seekers Centre – the generosity, their good hearts and passion to help people with complex issues. They’re helping me in my life, in my happiness,” she says.

“I just feel like I’m really home.”