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Outstanding Sierra Leoneans receive awards in Australia

Outstanding Sierra Leoneans receive awards in Australia

Two Sierra Leoneans living and working in Australia, Hamed Mustapha Turay (in photo) and Beatrice Sesay on Wednesday 9th Feb. 2011 were honoured with awards for their services to their communities in Sydney, Australia. Mr. Turay received the Zest Award for Outstanding New Worker in the Community Service Sector while Ms. Sesay won the same award for Outstanding Community Leader in Sydney. In the Community Council category, though it did not win the award, the Sierra Leone Community Council was a finalist.

About the Zest Awards

The ZEST Awards are an initiative of the Stronger Voice for Western Sydney partnership led by the non-government organisations Western Sydney Community Forum (WSCF), Tri Community Exchange and Western Sydney Information and Research Servicer (WESTIR).

Zest Awards celebrate the work done by the community services sector organisations which support the people of Western Sydney. The awards focus on leadership and advocacy, building social capital and community capacity and the creation of innovative partnerships. 2011 is the first year the Zest Awards were held and there were over 70 nominations.

For more information on the awards please see the website: http://www.gwsawards.org.au/

Sierra Leoneans were nominated/won in the following categories:

1. Outstanding New Worker in the Community Services Sector – Hamed Mustapha Turay – Winner of this award category!

Nomination information:

Hamed Turay works at the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) as the Community Development Project Officer in charge of the Communities in Cultural Transition (CiCT) Project. Hamed has shown Zest, Enthusiasm, Strength and Tenacity in successfully starting up this new project to assist small and emerging refugee communities.

The CiCT Project aims to assist non-funded associations and groups from newly arrived and emerging refugee communities to develop and expand their governance and leadership capacity. The Project uses a pool of professional consultants with diverse skills, matching them to community groups with particular needs.

Hamed is standing up for small refugee groups in Western Sydney, and has worked hard to achieve the central aim of the project – to end the dependence of small refugee groups on larger community service organisations. He has organised training and mentoring sessions and has facilitated the matching of many consultants to groups. The project could not succeed without Hamed’s commitment to partnerships with other groups and his dedication to empowering community members and the organisations that they work for.

Under Hamed’s careful guidance, CiCT has been a great success so far. Participating groups report that they now feel more confident to manage their associations and the project is experiencing very high demand. Much of this success is attributable to Hamed’s hard work bringing people together, building capacity and encouraging leadership.”

2. Outstanding Community Leader: Beatrice Sesay – Sierra Leone Women’s Wan Word – Finalist and recieved a Highly Commended Award in this category.

Nomination information:

Beatrice is a dedicated community leader that tirelessly volunteers her time with zest. Beatrice came to Australia as a refugee in 2002 with her young family and has been a volunteer ever since.

Her service to Western Sydney extends well beyond her own ethnic community (Sierra Leone). She is well known amongst the community for her commitment to and involvement in activities that promote a socially inclusive and harmonious society. She is currently the Chairperson for the Sierra Leone Women’s Wan Word (SLWWW) a voluntary organisation, which was set up in 2003 with the aim of empowering Sierra Leonean women, providing information, addressing settlement issues, providing moral and emotional support and fostering unity, as well as contributing positively towards multiculturalism in Australia.

Beatrice’s volunteer work highlights the valuable contributions people from refugee backgrounds make to Australia. Beatrice has shown strength, enthusiasm, and tenacity as Chairperson of the ONLY women’s group in the Sierra Leone community. Under her leadership, the SLWWW conducts a range of capacity building activities such as ‘Empowerment Month’. She continues to be a strong advocate for the refugee women in Western Sydney.

Beatrice is an active member of several volunteer groups – the Sierra Leone Community Council (peak Body for all Sierra Leonean organisations), working group for Celebration of African Cultures Festival, Auburn Small Community Organisation Network (assisted in organising ‘Flavours of Auburn’, African Women’s Group (assisted in organising Women’s Dinner Dance).

As community leader, Beatrice often provides assistance to community members on a range of issues such as pooling money to pay for funerals and providing family mediation.

3. Exceptional Partnership Project – African Mental Health Project- Sierra Leone Community Council, STARTTS and Trans-cultural Mental Health Service. (Finalist in this award category)

Nomination information.

The project was a partnership between the Sierra Leone Community Council, STARTTS and Trans-cultural Mental Health Centre (TMHC). Seven forums were held in Western Sydney in September/October 2010 – the key area that newly arrived refugees settle. Guest speaker Dr Edward Nahim was brought to Australia specifically for these forums. Dr Nahim is the Director of Kissy Mental Hospital (Sierra Leone) and the sole psychiatrist in Sierra Leone. He has worked for over 35 years in this role.

Through the series of forums, mental health professionals gained greater understanding of the culture and barriers to service access for African refugees, from a leading expert in the field. This is particularly important as the number of Africans in Australia continues to increase (primarily through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program) and their access to services also increases. Moreover, the forums will enhance the skills of mental health professionals to work with African refugees in a clinical setting and improve the cultural appropriateness of services and the sense of wellbeing.

A separate forum was held for African communities’ leaders – the aim was to increase mental health (post-trauma reactions) literacy amongst African leaders, discuss cross-cultural issues in working with African survivors of torture and trauma and develop a series of recommendations for Mental Health service providers attempting to engage African communities. The series of forums were the first of their kind for African refugees in Australia.

The forums were a great example of positive partnerships between small volunteer community organisations and service providers. The partners were involved in all aspects of the planning and delivery of the forums. The forums were a huge success and were well attended. Additionally the forums were an opportunity for African communities to discuss an otherwise ‘taboo’ topic in the presence of a well-known expert.

Alpha Sesay, Esq.

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