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SSC Newspaper : March 2014
Strathfield Scene 15 www.ourstrathfield.com.au LIFE “The men lost interest and the women jumped on board and we love tending to the garden.” Anna Dimo, St Bakhita Centre S he is the lifeblood of the Sudanese community in Sydney. Anna Dimo, 50, was one of the first Sudanese refugees to be allowed to stay in Australia after she was forced to leave South Sudan in 1996. Ms Dimo was a teacher in her home country and taught until war broke out. She was forced to flee to the city of Khartoum, where she was appointed as a principal and co-ordinator of a Catholic school. But when the civil unrest became unbearable, Ms Dimo was forced to escape, and went to Egypt. “Pumpkins have been growing well in the garden so we have been using it in our stews. There is also a decent tomato crop and we have also managed to grow corn. “The corn is not quite the same as what we had in South Sudan. The corn here grows out of much shorter stalks than what we are used to. So there are some things that we are still getting used to.” But, Ms Dimo says, though they might not be able to grow the produce they are used to, the women have been introduced to new vegetables and fruits. And she has been instrumental in encouraging the women to try the produce that they grow. “Now, in the garden, we are growing pumpkin and watermelons, which might not be used in Sudanese cooking,” she says. “But we are enjoying the experience. We’ve tried growing different types of berries and lots of salad leaves now. “ We are also growing lots of different herbs like basil and mint. Sudanese cooking is quite simple so we have learnt to incorporate these new types of herbs into our food. So we have been putting the pumpkins into our stews as well and the women and I really like the taste.” Ms Dimo’s favourite dish is a simple meat stew that is commonly cooked for a Sudanese family dinner. “ We put into boiling water some vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and onions,” she says. “And we usually use beef or lamb meat. We love peanuts so we sometimes put peanut butter into the stew. “Afterwards we add the okra in until it softens. The dish doesn’t need a lot of seasoning. So, typically, we only use salt and pepper and let it come to the boil. It’s a delicious dish which we eat very often and share with our family.” Food aside, Ms Dimo has done much to help the Sudanese community with other issues. “I try to assist as many families I can,” she says. “So “It was horrible to leave South Sudan, and being taken away from my home,” she says. “I was devastated to leave but I had to, to create a better life for my family and myself. “In Egypt, I worked with different women’s groups in Alexandria. I spent 11 years in Alexandria. But when my brother-in-law died, I had to take his body back to South Sudan. I was arrested and thrown into jail, while I was pregnant.” Anna’s husband had to pay a bribe to officials to get her out of prison and send her back to Egypt. She then fled to Australia, arriving on her own. Her husband and children came later. It has now been eight years since a peace treaty was signed in Sudan and since then Anna has started a school for girls in her home town. “Education is very important and especially in South Sudan where women are often seen as the second-class citizens and are forced to either leave school early or not go to school,” she says. “I want to provide a place for them to learn. “I was very lucky as my father was a teacher and believed all his children should be educated. I want to be able to give Sudanese children the same opportunities that I had.” OUT OF AFRICA: THE SCHOOL THAT ANNA DIMO SET UP IN SOUTH SUDAN HARMONY DAY Harmony Day, to be held in Strathfield on Saturday, March 15, celebrates cultural diversity. Events are held in schools and other centres in various dates in March. An Australian government program, it has been celebrated since 1999. This year Strathfield Council is providing a free day of activities including a barbecue, animal farm, jumping castle, family fun races like the egg and spoon, three-legged and sack race, cultural performances and community group information. The day starts at 10am , at Airey Park, Homebush. For more information, visit www. strathfield.nsw.gov.au Sanctuary from war in Homebush West it can be from finding jobs for the men and the women, or helping the children get into schools. “I go out to schools or schools come to the centre to learn more about the Sudanese community or more about how the church has helped us settle in Australia.” It hasn’t been an easy journey for the Sudanese to find their feet in Australia. Ms Dimo says many skilled refugees who have settled here have trouble finding work in their area of expertise. And she says even the Sudanese children find it hard to assimilate into Australian culture. “In Sudan, it is not common for teenagers to drink so when our kids come here, they go out of control,” she says. “They get drunk, and we are not used to handling that. “It’s a big issue for us. So what I am trying to do is to get the wider community to understand our culture and our traditions. We have many schools that come and visit the centre. It is open to everyone and anyone.” The St Bakhita Sudanese Centre in Homebush West was established to provide assistance to Sydney’s Sudanese community. The centre relies mainly on volunteers and works with organisations like TAFE. And the volunteers help the Sudanese with mainly literacy skills St Bakhita’s was opened in 2002 and now teaches English, computing and craft skills to men, women and children Sydney is now home to more than 3000 Sudanese Catholics and St Bakhita’s is used as the community’s hub. The Sudanese fled their home during the Second Sudanese Civil War and many refugees were traumatised along the way. Many did not have literacy and numeracy skills, especially the women. The centre also provides child-minding services to help with skills development for Sudanese people forging a new life in Australia. High school students also work in the childcare centre providing activities, games and books, to allow the parents to study. Anna heads St Bakhita’s and helps families find jobs and homes in Sydney. She helps with running the day-to-day activities and she is always looking for volunteers to help out at the centre. She was one of the first Sudanese refugees to be granted amnesty to Australia. She fled her home in 1996 and has helped hundreds of refugees find a new life in Sydney.