Fitzroy Learning Network Annual Report - Page 5

Executive Officer’s Report When looking at a year broken down into weeks it doesn’t seem as if you are achieving much. However, when looking back across a whole year I can see how much FLN has grown and strengthened. It is hard to believe that we have the capacity to grow, given our limited financial and physical resources, but grow we do. We undertake new community development projects, add new ESL classes, add new clients to all our Refugee Support and other programs and recruit more volunteers. We currently have nearly 250 active volunteers at FLN. The volunteers contribute in excess of 20,000 hours every year. This is an amazing contribution to a small organisation such as FLN. The staff are grateful for the assistance they provide in all aspects of the organisation. Without the support of volunteers FLN could not function at the high capacity which we do. The Refugee Support Program is a unique service we provide to our clients. The fact that they feel comfortable in visiting and returning to visit us many years after our first contact, even with staff changes, is a testament to the support which we provide. Whilst we do not duplicate the services provided by the other organisations who are professionals in their field, and to which we refer clients, there is a need for the link which we provide. We recently were able to assist a non-English speaking young lady who without the assistance of our Refugee Support Worker could not have worked through the complicated systems of banking, Centrelink, housing and material aid. She could have not even been able to navigate around the suburbs to access these other services. The Refugee Support Program continues to assist those clients who came to us ten years ago as asylum seekers and are now bringing their families to join our various education and support programs. I was proud and pleased to recently see a mother and father enjoying watching their three children do a presentation at a Computer Clubhouse event. The mother and those children had only been in Australia for eight months. With the assistance of our ESL program and the Clubhouse the mother and children’s English skills were improving quickly. Fitzroy Learning Network Annual Report 2011/12 Our Computer Clubhouse members nearly always stay with us for the entire length of their membership from the ages of 10 years to 18. We also have past members volunteering as mentors. The Clubhouse has been operating for 11 years now and we have seen our members move from primary school to tertiary study. We have a number of asylum seekers who have recently been placed in community detention that have been accessing our services. With the changes to government policy the requests for assistance will escalate. The support that FLN can give to these asylum seekers can be shown by a charming gentleman who is in one of our ESL classes. He has travelled from Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to Indonesia. He arrived on Christmas Island in 2007. After this he was moved around detention centres in Australia. He came to us on a temporary visa and has just recently gained permanent residency. He has no family here in Australia, they are all back in Afghanistan. He told one of our dedicated ESL teachers that he knew that his teachers, the volunteers and staff worked really hard and were doing their best to help him. He said that FLN were so kind and like family to him. Our staff member acknowledge how difficult his extended journey had been and he gently stated, “I’m not a tree to be shaken by any wind.” This gentleman has shown great courage in coming to Australia and trusting us. He is dedicated and has shown remarkable progress in his English language studies in a very short time. FLN are fortunate to be part of the end of his journey and have his trust and friendship. I would like to thank our volunteers, staff, Board and clients for another wonderful year. I think to myself almost daily how fortunate I am to work with you all. Colleen Duggan Executive Officer 3