Chernoh previously fled war-torn Sierra Leone, moved to Ghana and bravely resettled for a new life alone in Brisbane in November 2004. Chernoh is the embodiment of strength, grit and unfaltering passion to help others – especially refugees whom he can deeply identify with as he was one too.
This is Chernoh’s story:
Q: Hi Chernoh! Can you please introduce yourself?
Hi everyone, my name is Chernoh. I fled war-torn Sierra Leone (West Africa) and moved to Ghana in 1996. I previously worked at a refugee camp for 10 years. In November 2004, I received the opportunity to resettle in Brisbane on my own. I strived to improve my English, study and work – I even worked at a chicken factory for two years. Through the years, I have never stopped giving up – I am now studying at QUT and working at Inala Community House. Life takes you to all the unexpected places!
Q: What made you choose social work as your career?
For many years, I have been actively involved in my own Sierra Leone refugee community in Brisbane. Some of them face language barriers as they cannot speak English. I am a little more educated and have realised that it is a good opportunity for me to intervene and help my community wherever I can. Over time I have gradually developed the biggest passion to help people from refugee backgrounds as I can personally identify with.
Q: Why did you come to work at Inala Community House?
I really enjoy my work at Inala Community House – it is a fulfilling challenge for me every day to apply all my knowledge and work experience to help the Inala community.
More significantly, working at Inala Community House has given me precious opportunities to work with refugees from various country and cultural backgrounds, not just my home community Sierra Leone.
Q: What is your current role at Inala Community House?
I am the Community Engagement Coordinator. I alternate my work between 80% Community Support Program, 20% Community Settlement Service – depending on program and client needs.
I am ever thankful for my supportive co-workers like Seble who is a long-time Community Settlement Service Coordinator. Another co-worker Anushka who has trained me very well. Not to forget Jatinder – my supervisor who has taught me greatly on how to apply theories into practical work.
Fun fact – I have another QUT social work university friend Cindy Wang who is currently doing her work placement at Inala Community House too. It has been a great learning process for us.
Q: How is your day-to-day like working at Inala Community House?
No day is the same! There are always new faces with new issues that I am ever so glad to help with. Besides making appointments, we always welcome our clients to drop in and out of our centre (20 Skylark Street, Inala) anytime for enquiries and support.
For Community Settlement Service, we focus on one-on-one client support. The biggest issue is always housing. For example, I am currently working with a single mother with five children, who are getting evicted from her house but have nowhere to go. The single mother is unemployed with only Centrelink benefits. I am helping her to fill out forms and create a solution plan in collaboration with other organisations like Compass Housing Services, Kybara, Department of Housing and others.
Besides housing, some common client issues are domestic and family violence, financial issues and budgeting, immigration and more. At present time, most of our clients are from African countries. I see about two to four clients a day.
Besides settlement support, I also help coordinate Inala Community House Healthy Ageing Program (Skylarkers). It is lovely to meet and support our local seniors in improving their health and wellbeing. Many are incredibly friendly and welcoming given that I am a new staff member!
Last but not least, I believe that I can help make a difference within the Inala community. It is my pleasure.