Providing a place for everybody to feel safe and welcome is something YMCA Victoria believes in strongly.
Particularly for those experiencing disadvantage, we believe it is important to provide opportunities to help people feel healthier and happier and more connected to their community.
This is why YMCA Victoria’s Camp Manyung, a partner of the Department of Health and Human Services, has proudly provided the space and facilities for a group of one hundred Rohingya asylum seekers to experience its coastal location in Mount Eliza and enjoy some well-needed rest, relaxation and adventure.
Funded by YMCA Open Doors and national community service organisation, Life Without Barriers, the group of Rohingya people, ranging from five months to 80 years old, were able to enjoy the three day camp earlier this week without financial stress.
The Rohingya people are some of the most vulnerable asylum seekers in the community. So, the opportunity to attend this program meant they could come together in a safe place to connect with each other, the Australian outdoors and the local community. It also supports the ongoing transition to their new lives by learning about their environment and connecting with local community groups and members in a welcoming and fun setting.
As the recently released National Drowning Report describes, "Indigenous, migrant and refugee communities are most at risk, being the least likely to achieve national benchmarks" for swimming ability. It’s therefore crucially important that new arrivals to Australia, who may have not received swimming lessons before, are given the opportunity to learn and gain a strong understanding of what water safety means.
The camp program therefore featured education on coastal and marine safety facilitated by Life Saving Victoria, with the purpose to empower families to feel better equipped when visiting beaches with friends and family.
As well as marine education, families also got to just be families and have fun together. The popular high ropes course and flying fox were a hit with kids and adults alike, providing well-needed respite and fun for a group of people who right now need it more than most.
YMCA Camp Manyung’s Operations Manager, Jim Boyle, who assisted with the program creation says that he has been thrilled to offer the camp’s facilities and such an inclusive program in partnership with Life Without Barriers.
“We are proud to offer a camp program that supports and builds confidence in asylum seekers who need it the most, ” he said.
Life Without Barriers provides a range of social services to people in need and works in more than 300 communities across Australia. The organisation also supports refugees and asylum seekers living in the community while their immigration status is being resolved by providing access to housing, employment, medical, legal and other essential services.
YMCA and Life Without Barriers hope that by creating a fun, safe and engaging program, the asylum seeker families will connect with one another, build confidence and link to other local services providers for ongoing support.