In 2021 Deakin University’s Centre for Refugee Employment, Advocacy, Training, and Education (CREATE) partnered with the Crescent Foundation to develop and deliver career clinics for recent or soon to be university graduates from refugee backgrounds. This is a story of Malaika Namdas a medical professional currently based in the United States and Ali Abid a hospital pharmacist who arrived in Australia as a 16-year-old refugee. In 2021 they were paired up for the Crescent Champions Club mentorship program with Deakin CREATE.
I’m a first-generation New Zealander. I was born in India and my family moved to New Zealand when I was quite young, where I studied and trained as a pharmacist. Eventually I moved to Sydney and completed my MBA at the University of Sydney before moving to Denmark. I’m now based in the United States, doing a lot of voluntary consulting work.
I first came to know about the Crescent Champions program via one of my professors who is very involved in the UN and refugee work. I’ve previously been involved in informal refugee programs through my church in New Zealand and once I saw that the program was specifically for refugees, I knew I wanted to be part of it. I felt like it could be my way of empowering someone.
I knew our challenges would be different, but as an immigrant myself, I also knew they would overlap. I could really understand the experience of someone saying, “I am in a new land, which I didn’t choose for myself, and I have no identity here.” I had moved to Australia, I had moved to Denmark, I was that person entering a new context, finding that identity, breaking those barriers, having to make friends and connections again, finding jobs. I could resonate with all of those aspects.
Ali was my first mentee, and honestly, it was the most amazing experience. I could tell straight away that we were very like-minded – both pharmacy professionals and both high achievers. Initially we were given each other’s resumes, and his was super impressive. I genuinely began questioning what I could offer him, but as we got to know each other it became clear that pairing us up was very intentional.
One of the things I appreciate about Ali is that he is so self-motivated. Early on we decided that WhatsApp was the best way for us to communicate and one day he asked if we could catch-up. I had all my notes, ready for questions, but instead he came to me with an idea for a start-up. Just him and me. He said, “We’ve got the skills, we’ve got the education.” He’s driven, he’s creative, and while the idea itself may or may not eventuate, I know he’s going to achieve so much.
While we’re no longer mentor and mentee, we’re still in touch and we still prefer WhatsApp. Our relationship has shifted to friendship, where we share each other’s personal successes. I’m so appreciative that Ali was able to trust me and open up so much. He was such a good mentee and is now a good friend. I’ve learned so much from him.
I’m a Hazara, an ethnic group that is divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan. I came to Australia when I was 16 years old. The first few years were difficult, but I was fortunate enough to meet amazing people who helped me. I eventually got into university and studied a bachelor’s in pharmacy and suddenly found myself in a different world.
I heard about the program and decided to apply. I could see the opportunities that would come from it. Being paired up with Malaika, who is in the same industry, was amazing. She has an ocean of experience in not only the pharmacy world but also in how to navigate and build your career, how to network, how to look for things you’re passionate about and build on that. I had no-one to help me or guide me before I met Malaika. She would always take the time to explain things to me and if I had questions, without hesitation or delay, she answered and encouraged me. Malaika helped me to believe in myself.
Hearing that Maliaka’s grandmother lived with her was so heart-warming to me. I had been missing my family so much and seeing her do a great job with her career while being able to look after her family was so refreshing. It was inspiration that one day I would be like her as well.
One of the most rewarding things about the program has been the life lessons Malaika shared with me. We spend our whole life learning those lessons, but when we share them with someone – and in such a short period of time – it’s like treasure for the other person. The life experiences she has shared with me are priceless and I’m so glad I can now think of Malaika as a friend – an incredible, amazing friend that I was fortunate enough to have met.
We would like to thank the team at Deakin CREATE for their hard work and support to design and oversee this important program.