By Lee-Ann Hawe
Save our Seekers (SOS) is a not-for-profit organisation aimed at supporting refugees and asylum seekers.
Established earlier this year by locals Hong Tran and Siobhan Relf, the organisation raises funds through the sale of branded merchandise and donates to a partner charity. Recently, Save Our Seekers partnered with West Welcome Wagon, a volunteer group assisting asylum seekers in the Western suburbs.
Save our Seekers co-founder, Hong Tran discusses the partnership, and what drives her to help refugees and asylum seekers.
“My professional partner Siobhan works within the community sector and saw first-hand the positive impact West Welcome Wagon has had with vulnerable asylum seekers”, says Tran.
“West Welcome Wagon helps asylum seekers with the basic things we take for granted, such as blankets, which can be life changing to someone who has nothing. Their organisation needed a hand to raise their profile and gain additional support. We wanted to help them do that.”
The partnership will continue for six months, and after that time another support organisation will benefit. Tran and Relf sell a range of t-shirts, tanks and enamel pins in their Etsy shop. The profit made from every sale goes directly to West Welcome Wagon.
“It is a win-win situation for everyone. Our customers get high-quality merchandise, and an organisation receives funds from the purchase to continue doing great work within the community”, says Tran.
The women run the operations from their homes, processing and delivering orders themselves. They fit in the demands of their fledgling organisation with jobs and busy lives.
“When we conceptualised the initiative, we agreed that this model was going to be a labour of love. We have used our savings to invest in the first run of merchandise, which includes the garments and screen printing service.
It’s personal experience that motivates Tran. “My mother was a refugee. She left Communist Vietnam after the war and arrived in Melbourne in 1978. The kindness she received from strangers, and the generosity of the Australian community moved her to contribute and return the gesture”, says Tran.
In addition to raising funds for asylum seekers, Tran aims to help raise awareness of their plight through her organisation’s social media channels.
“When you arrive in a new place after a very traumatic experience, such as war, and you have nothing in your hands except for the clothing on your back, it can be difficult to find any sense of hope or belief that you’re going to make it. We currently have the highest number of displaced people since the second world war. The topic needs to remain on the table and be front of mind.”
Save Our Seekers merchandise is available on the Etsy store etsy.com/shop/saveourseekers and Facebook/ Twitter/Instagram @SaveOurSeekers
Lee-Ann Hawe is a freelance writer. She blogs regularly on leethewriter.com