At just 15, less than a year after arriving in Australia, changed family circumstances meant living with her extended family was no longer an option. It was a precarious situation. But Rachelle was determined to make a life for herself here in Australia. She knew education was the key, though she had not been allowed to attend school in her home country.
“My first day of school was very scary,” Rachelle said.
“I could speak seven languages, but English was not one of them. I didn’t know a word of English. I had never been to school. I didn’t even know how to hold a pencil,” Rachelle said.
Rachelle spent a year studying at Milperra State High School, a school dedicated to the settlement and development of English language skills for recently arrived migrants, and students from non-English speaking backgrounds. With the support and encouragement of her teachers Rachelle’s English advanced rapidly.
Rachelle was placed in community housing in Woodridge and enrolled at Woodridge State School with the goal of completing her Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), Queensland’s senior schooling qualification.
But the ongoing instability and uncertainty surrounding her housing situation continued to impact on her ability to study effectively. Rachelle was referred to Micah Projects, who supported her to apply for a tenancy at Brisbane Common Ground (BCG).
“They phoned and asked if I would like to come and see a unit, to see if I would like it. It was beautiful. Of course I liked it,” Rachael said.
Once stable housing was in place Rachelle could focus on her education and complete Year 12.
The Micah team were amazing. Every day Natasha and Paul from Micah were fighting for me: to finish my study, to get a better job, to get a better life. They helped me to think about what I could do to have a happy life
“It was hard living alone for the first time. I had always been surrounded by people from the African community, and there were no other Africans living at Brisbane Common Ground at the time, but Natasha and Paul made sure I never felt alone.”
The Micah Projects team helped Rachelle secure a volunteer position with St Vincent’s in their food services team. After just four days of volunteering they hired Rachelle as an employee. She has now been working for them for over 18 months.
Since starting her job, Rachelle chose to save up a bond deposit and move into private, stable rental accommodation.
“It took a lot of work to save up the $1,240 in bond. But I am so proud that I did it,” Rachelle said.
“I could have stayed at BCG, but I told myself no. Life is about learning and moving on. I learned what I needed to know, and I could never have done it without the help of Micah Projects, but now I want to see what I can do. I want to make a wonderful life for myself.”
Rachelle is incredibly mindful of the journey she has taken since leaving the Congo.
“Life is complicated. Life is hard. Life, and some people will try to push you down on the ground, so you have to pick yourself up and keep going,” Rachelle said.
“I am so happy I came to Australia. It is an amazing place where there are so many kind people who are willing to help me when life is being very difficult,” she said.
“What I have learned from my travels and from the people at Micah is don’t dwell on the bad. If you dwell on it, it will keep you down. But if you have confidence in your heart and believe you can do something, it will happen.”