This story was originally published on the Westifeld Local Heroes Website on 1 October 2019.
DREAM Project empowers refugees to become leaders
Cheerful. Motivational. Inspiring
Despite working in a demanding full-time executive role, Agnes Barnard managed to set up the Dream Project four years ago to help school students from refugee backgrounds integrate into the Australian community.
The charity’s volunteers are university students and young professionals who provide practical study support as well as motivational support in programs run at several schools.
They promote a supportive education environment, help model positive social behaviours and encourage equal educational and employment opportunities.
They also help facilitate a smoother transition into the local community.
“Our refugee students easily relate to our volunteers because of their warmth, empathy and closeness in age. Students become more engaged in school and are more open-minded about what they can become,” says Agnes.
Agnes feels elated and grateful to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “It’s a confirmation that what we’re doing is benefitting our students. We’re so small that any recognition for our work is a big thing for us.”
She immigrated to Australia 12 years ago and knows that settling in a new country can be a challenge. However, that challenge can be enormous for refugee children because of the hardship and trauma they have experienced.
“Our goal is to empower them to be future leaders in the Australian community,” she says.
The project has three main programs: Academic Coaching, Life Skills and Girls’ Club, with a club for boys to be introduced soon.
It’s not only the school students who benefit, says Agnes.
“Through volunteering and our leadership program, volunteers learn about mentoring, being professional, responsible, proactive and others-oriented.”
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.
The Dream Project will use its funds to review, standardise and document its systems and procedures for both its mentoring program and its volunteer training program.
“The recognition will also help us get more volunteers or even more people who could support us in different ways, whether financially or otherwise,” says Agnes.
For more details on the Westfield Local Heroes Program, click here.