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Odelia's Story

My name is Odelia. and I arrived in Australia at the end of November last year, with my husband and my daughter, four years old.

We settled in Muswellbrook, having being received by my sister-in-law (my husband’s sister) and my brother-in-law, who also settled in Muswellbrook.  They left Australia one month later and flew to Canada, when my brother-in-law fulfilled a two years job contract.

And here we are an overseas family, by ourselves, in the month of January 2004, in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia!

In February, my husband started a 50 days period of field work in order to have a full assessment of his “Bachelor of Arts” diploma.

And here I am, by myself, in a beautiful new and comfortable house, 10 minutes (by car) far away from town, with a driver’s license! And here I am, from a quite busy career woman, to a too-much-time-having person; from a “very good communication and writing skills” person to someone without any desire to improve her language or social relations, even if some nice ladies (from the church that we used to go) tried to involve me is some of their activities; from a happy-mother of a gorgeous little girl to a worried mother of a child who seemed to regress in her behaviour and to have “blue” days.  The month of February was the most difficult for us. My only achievements were some extra-pounds, due to the new meals (which I have had all the time in the world to try it!) and different degrees of “blue-like” feelings!

In March, my daughter started pre-school and, despite the lovely teachers that work there (she adores them!), she didn’t want to be left there alone. So, I began to stay with her and that was a bit of a change in my life, although I get more “blue” because I realised how little I understood the teacher (with whom I used to have a little chat during the morning tea break). I have experienced the same feeling when we have met people from church we used to go. They were (they still are) so nice, but I was getting quite depressed each Sunday because I understood so little! 

At this time, I have read in the local newspaper about a program who helps families with children under five and I was thinking it would be good if somebody could come and play and speak English with my daughter. I talked to my husband and he answered that he met someone from that program and he encouraged me to phone. It took almost a week to phone because I was very reluctant to speak on the phone as it was (it still is) more difficult to understand.

Eventually, I called and I spoke with a lovely lady (a very nice English articulation too) from Scone office, who took some information about us and she finished by telling me:  “We want you to feel welcome in Australia!” It was so touching! 

Helen was in charge at Muswellbrook’s office, but she was away on Easter holiday and it took almost one month to get in contact with me. When she returned from holiday, she phoned me and visited me at home (a unit in town, where we moved after our relatives’ house got sold). She was supportive and full of empathy, and, most of all, she seemed to understand a lot of my broken English!  She gave me information about Home-Start and she listened to me in a very professional and warm manner.  She told me about confidentiality too, but that issue was the less worrying thing for me.  I did not care if all the town knew what my problems were. All I wanted was that my daughter goes better with her English and her relationships with other children and as-less-as-can-be, mercy-like, look from some people that knew me.

Often when the people have had that look regarding me, I was thinking I have been punished for every time I was watching in the same way a disabled person. 

Helen visited me short time after her first visit, accompanied by another nice lady, Pam, who became “my tutor”. Pam was doing this “job” from some time and she was gaining a lot of experience (more than a young, ready-to-work, licensed social worker).  She had a gold heart too!

During the next couple weeks, Pam was doing a lot of things for us:  she introduced us to her family, she explained me a couple of things about the Australian society, Australian (sometimes, funny) customs (“Bring your own plate!”), practical things (smart shopping, assurance, banking Medicare, public education etc). We weren’t completely unaware of this issues, but having an Australian person to explain that, it was better.

Pam also acted in a supportive manner.  She encouraged me in every small thoughts of personal growth, using different ways (giving examples, emphasis the positive aspects of a problem etc) like a professional.  

Regarding my daughter, Pam suggested a couple of ways to “boost” her English level.  She introduced us to her daughter's family and her granddaughter became a close girl-friend of my daughter.  We are meeting Pam's family quite often and we are very pleased with that.  She organised small events and trips when we have some time together and that’s great! In fact, Pam and her family “adopted” us, which give us an overwhelming-like feeling!

One of the most important things Pam has done for me,  was that she assumed me that I will get a job forthcoming. Given my struggling efforts to have a common sense level of English, I am very sure the moment to get a job is not far away.  But the fact that Pam really thinks eventually I’ll get a decent job, is a nice sensation and I feel like “I need to do my best to not disappointed this person who trusts my capacities.”

Helen is continuing to phone or visiting me from time to time to check if everything is o.k. Because this program gave us so much, I wanted to give something back and I offered my help to Helen for basic paper work (mailing envelopes, filling list etc). I suppose it is a little bit unusual to have a “client” doing “voluntary work”, but I hope I can give back a small amount of what, me and my family, have received.