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Asylum seeker recognised for volunteering

9 August 20161 comment

A Melbourne asylum seeker has been recognised for two years of unstinting volunteer service to some of Victoria’s most vulnerable and ailing people.

Saiprashanthan Candiah (Sai) has been volunteering at Monash Refugee Health in Dandenong for more than two years, supporting people recovering from physical and mental illnesses, disease and the effects of war, trauma and torture.

He says he is passionate about health care and helping people and now he has been honoured with a ‘Certificate of Recognition’ from Monash Health.

Sai first started volunteering at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre as a computer technician fixing old and used computers to get them ready to be donated to asylum seekers.

He also actively engaged in distributing food parcels to asylum seekers.

Sai pic_thumbnail

Sai Candiah

A health carer in Sri Lankan hospitals, Sai jumped at the chance to volunteer for Monash Health.

“When I was first in Australia, I had no work rights but I wanted to do something. When the opportunity to volunteer at Monash Health in 2014 (came), I took it up,” the 32-year-old said.

“I started as a concierge welcoming people at reception, helping them find their appointments and their way around the hospital.

“I love the work. When I arrived in Australia I had noone – no friends or family. Now, at the hospital I have a family; I have lots of friends and they are just like family.

“Now that I have work rights, I would love to work at a hospital full time and I am looking for a vacancy.

“I love volunteering. It is very rewarding and I like meeting new people,” Sai said.

Sai’s volunteering work at Monash refugee health began 2014. His role is to greet, assist and guide clients, patients and visitors to their appointments, ranging from physiotherapy to financial counselling and refugee health assessments and treatment.

He engages with reception staff, calls taxis and supports incapacitated clients. He also participates in the “dialysis companion” volunteer team to support dialysis patients during their treatment.

Sai said political problems forced him to leave his family in Sri Lanka and make the perilous boat journey to Australia.

“I am from Sri Lanka and I love my country. I worked in a hospital as a patient carer. I enjoyed working in the hospital and helping people,” Sai said.

“But I had to leave because I was involved in politics and I had a problem with the police and the military.

“In Sri Lanka things are very corrupt and people can pay the police to make things difficult for you.

“When my problem happened, my mother told me to leave. She was afraid for me.

“So I came to Australia by boat in 2012. It was a terrible journey and I was lucky to survive,” Sai said.

He says he is enjoying life in Australia and wants the opportunity to give back the country that has given him a safe haven from his problems at home.

“I am enjoying my time volunteering. I’m always meeting people of different nationalities and it makes me more confident,” Sai said.

“I am just looking for a peaceful, happy future.”

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist