Refugee Week: The Story of Khein Paw & The Bluebird Foundation

We’re continuing to celebrate Refugee Week and the contributions refugees and asylum seekers make to our community.

Do you know what one of the major resettlement challenges is for refugees and asylum seekers is?

It’s isolation.

It’s not hard to imagine that anyone moving to a different country is going to face some adaptation pains. But, imagine resettling into a new community after escaping your previous one under the stress and threat of persecution.

Language and cultural barriers are one of the major obstacles many refugees have to overcome. Even if a refugee arrives speaking English, there are many cultural and societal nuances they have to learn. Because of this big learning curve, many young refugees are at risk of isolation and losing their connection to the community, whether through language barriers or cultural ones.

Reducing isolation is one of the keys to creating a fairer and more equitable society (the aim of the Give Where You Live Foundation) so it’s crucial we direct our efforts into supporting social participation within the local refugee and asylum seeker community.


So, how do we do that?

One of the Foundation’s grant recipients, the Bluebird Foundation is helping with just that!

Bluebird Foundation is a community arts organisation that creates and delivers quality arts programs to make a difference in the lives of members of the community. This program is backed by plenty of research on the transformative power of art – from improved social outcomes to offering an emotional outlet, a sense of achievement, and even better health outcomes!

The Propeller program, run by the Bluebird Foundation, taps into the therapeutic benefits of art and gives young people from diverse backgrounds (including refugee and asylum seekers) a safe and welcoming space to express themselves and their stories in a universal language.

Bron Lawson, Program Manager at the Bluebird Foundation says the benefits of the Propeller program go both ways, “Our Propeller program supports young people from refugee backgrounds to make connections with like-minded peers as they develop their artistic passions. But the benefits go both ways as our groups are enriched by the stories and art these young people share and everyone’s unique contribution is celebrated.”

The Propeller program is providing real benefits to people from refugee backgrounds, including the inspiring story of Khein Paw*.


Khein Paw’s Story

Khein Paw, a Karen refugee, arrived in Australia as an unaccompanied minor two years ago speaking no English.

Her key worker in the Refugee Minor Program at Bethany Community Services identified her as being at risk of social isolation due to language and cultural barriers, financial hardship, lack of transportation, and lack of confidence to engage with peers.

Upon discovering Khein Paw had a passion and talent for drawing, Khein Paw’s key worker referred her to the Propeller program. This support pathway (a collaborative effort between the Propeller Project, Bethany Community Services, and Khein Paw herself) included free access to the Girls Street Art Collective (providing weekly art workshops).

So, Khein Paw’s situation was looking up. But she still needed a solution to her lack of transport.

The program also enlisted a volunteer to assist Khein Paw to catch public transport from her school to Bluebird House, until she has the confidence to negotiate the route independently.

Upon her first workshop, Khein Paw had an onsite meeting to become familiar with the space and learn small details like how to lock the toilet door and how to make a snack and hot drink in the kitchen.

The support provided by Propeller teaches those with a refugee background critical social and street skills and promotes inclusion within the community.

The workshops themselves are based on inclusion and value diversity. Building connections is a major benefit of the program and something crucial for young women like Khein Paw.

Your donations enable the Foundation to support social participation programs like the Propeller program and ensure all members of the community have their voices heard.

*Name has been changed.