Mentors needed to support migrant and refugee children


    By Eva Soodi

    At the age of three I immigrated to Australia from Iran with my family. I had difficulties with speaking, reading, and writing English when I was in primary school. As ‘the kid from somewhere else’, my ‘funny’ accent, and other features that made me ‘different’ would be pointed out, leaving me feeling alienated from my peers.

    These problems continued into high school. Other students would mock my accent and repeat my words in exaggerated ways to emphasise how ‘weird’ I sounded when I spoke English. For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t believe I could achieve anything. 

    Thinking about how low my self-esteem used to be, I wish someone had been there to empower me, to help me understand that it is okay to be different, and in fact, many people feel the same. 

    I started volunteering as a mentor for the Refugee Migrant Children Centre (RMCC) in 2019. I wanted to give children resettling in Australia the support I wish I had as a migrant child growing up here. 

    My job as a mentor is to deliver programs that aim to improve children’s learning and wellbeing, and help them find their place in Australia. Each child is different, so are their needs. Some might fall behind in school due to prior learning gaps or lack of educational support, while others struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. That’s why I actively listen to them, and build a connection based on trust to understand how to best support these kids. 

    A big part of my role is to encourage them to find their talents so that they can succeed in life and confidently contribute to their communities.

    The kids surprise and inspire me every time

    There are many things that make this such a special experience. The smile on the students’ faces when they accomplish something that was initially challenging. Watching their confidence improve every week. Seeing the kids recognise their potential and feel hopeful about their future. Being surrounded by a wonderful team of volunteers and leaders who inspire me and from whom I learn. 

    Every time I see them, the kids surprise me in some way. When asked what superpower they wished they had, one student said “the power to end homelessness”. Such a thoughtful answer from a nine-year-old!

    I also get inspired by how they are always enthusiastic about art. If adults are asked to do art (and I am no exception here), we would likely hear a response like ‘Oh my drawing is terrible.’ But these kids don’t let fear of judgment get in their way. It proves to me that insecurity is something taught as we grow up. 

    Compassion, patience and consistency are vital

    For long-term improvements to take place, children need stability and consistent support. To make a lasting impact on these kids, you have to show up for them every week. 

    This is not always easy of course. That’s why it’s essential for us volunteers to stick to our principles and prioritise our commitments accordingly. Remember the reasons why you started when things are less convenient, because meaningful changes take time and effort.

    I still think about the girl I mentored when I first started. She was not comfortable speaking to any adults and other kids. After weeks of one-on-one mentor support, she started speaking to me, shyly at first but more confidently later. It was eye-opening to see how much easier it was for her to communicate once trust was established. 

    To people thinking about volunteering for RMCC, I promise you will have a meaningful, rewarding experience, and a community of dedicated people from refugee and migrant backgrounds who will inspire you the way they have inspired me. 

    RMCC (Refugee Migrant Children Centre) is a Victorian not-for-profit organisation supporting school-aged kids from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Through weekly tailored after-school mentoring programs, RMCC helps these children overcome the barriers they face as they settle into life in Australia. To become a volunteer mentor at RMCC, visit

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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