Tesfai's Story

Everything was new

When Tesfai first arrived in Melbourne, he felt “like a fish out of the sea”. He had been forced to leave his home in Eritrea, where he had been in his third year of studying Biology at university.

“I came from a society with the same language, with my friends and family,” he said.

Tesfai found himself in “a new country, new society, new area―everything was new here”.

He missed his friends and family, his language and culture. But through language lessons, Tesfai was introduced to the Ucan2 program

“We visited different places. We did a lot of things. It was a lot of fun,” Tesfai said.

“The Ucan2 people were like friends for me. They explained all the obstacles that new people can have here, they motivated me,” he explained.

Connecting with a mentor

The Ucan2 program has an ongoing relationship with Australia Post , which sponsors mentoring and employment opportunities for Ucan2 participants. As part of this program, Tesfai got casual work at Australia Post and was connected with Josh, a mentor.

Josh had seen the Ucan2 mentorships advertised through internal publicity at his Australia Post workplace and thought it was a great idea. He found out more about Ucan2 program, attended preparatory workshops, and was introduced to Tesfai.

Josh was a point of contact at Australia Post, and helped Tesfai with other work skills such as preparing his CV and writing job applications. The two also met for social outings around Melbourne, or just for a coffee.

Tesfai enjoyed his placement at Australia Post.

“It is a very large work area, a lot of people with different cultures, with different language. It is like the whole of Australia is there! They welcomed us, it was nice. I was sorting the parcels, it is not hard,” Tesfai said.

A sense of belonging and empowerment

Having Josh as a mentor also helped Tesfai to tackle challenges.

As Tesfai explained, “When he is beside me, I feel confident, if something happened to me, I just call him or send him a message and I ask him. Because he is beside me, I feel confident and I do things confidently”.

For Josh, the benefits of the Ucan2 program go both ways and that he has enjoyed expanding his knowledge and developing professional skills.

As Josh explained, “It was a good learning experience for me to get to know Tesfai, also his values, traditions, more about his country and where he came from, what he did day to day there, about his family, his two kids.”

“Being a mentor, you have to be open minded, there is issue resolution, finding answers to problems that I have never had to deal with before,” he said.

Heart brothers moving forward

Tesfai has now gone on to full-time work, and Josh is mentoring a new Ucan2 participant. Though they see each other a bit less, Tesfai and Josh have maintained their friendship.

Josh said, “I think Tesfai and I will be like heart brothers moving forward. I look forward to growing some more together”.

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