“We were living very well. Syria is a good country. We had everything. We were happy,” shares the grandmother with a warm smile.”
“Then war started. Everything is different now. Everything has changed. We had to come to Australia,” she says.”
Now calling Wollongong in New South Wales home, Gemma reflects on arriving in her new country not knowing any English.
“In the beginning we faced many difficulties. It’s very difficult to live in a society that speaks English, and you don’t even know a word,” shares Gemma who speaks Arabic.”
Starting Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) English classes at MAX has helped Gemma on her way to learning English.
Despite some people telling Gemma she didn’t need to learn English because of her age, she wasn’t deterred.
“I am very motivated and very interested in learning the language. English is very important, especially since we live in a country that speaks nothing but English. I have to learn it in order to interact with people,” she says.”
Not only have the classes helped Gemma learn English, they’ve also helped her build community.
“The teachers are great, so are the students. We’ve become like a family all of us. We treat each other with love and in a spirit of cooperation,” she shares.
“I’m very, very happy in the classroom. I feel at home. I feel very comfortable and very happy inside the classes,” says Gemma.
Gemma has devoted most of her life to caring for her family and she hasn’t previously worked outside the home.
However her determination and vision for what her new life in Australia might looks like extends beyond learning English.
“I hope to work but I don’t know if I’ll get a chance. I don’t know about my age. I love work. I love being busy. Work gives value to a person. It develops character and brings love to a person,” shares Gemma.”
As she continues to learn English and continue caring for her family including children and grandchildren, Gemma appreciates her new home.
“The Australian people are kind and nice. I mean everything is good, thank God, everything is fine” she says.
The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) has been helping eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants like Gemma to grow their confidence in English and settle into Australia for many years. In fact, Government supported English programs for migrants have been running in Australia since 1948.
AMEP is a Government funded service helping eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills and settle into Australia. It is funded by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs
Gemma joined her fellow students during Refugee Week in 2022. The MAX AMEP team welcomed students and migrant support partners from the community for a special celebration of culture, food and friendship.