Young leader to advocate for others in ambassador role

By Fiona West | September 9, 2021

A Navitas English Fairfield student will be able to realise her mission of helping other young migrants and refugees after being accepted as a youth ambassador at MYAN (Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network).

Odette Siuofi, 20, said she was “very proud” to be chosen as a representative of MYAN’s NSW Youth Ambassador Network, which will provide her with leadership and professional development opportunities as well as the ability to engage in advocacy for young migrants and refugees at a national level.

“Being a MYAN youth ambassador is really exciting for me because I will benefit from this important role and also benefit other young people who need help,” Odette said.

“Many young migrants are looking for better ways to build their future in Australia and many of them look for aspirations and trustworthy leaders who can provide advice and support along the way. I am very proud to be chosen as a youth ambassador because I know I can do this.”

Originally from Syria, Odette is currently completing Certificate III in Spoken and Written English in the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).

Since arriving in Australia with her family in March 2020, she has embraced every opportunity and is determined to help others in any way she can. Her dream is to study business at university and open her own nail salon, training and employing women from resettlement communities.

Odette Siuofi with her artwork “Walking to a Dream” which was exhibited at Fairfield college and was also part of a public installation Youth Class project for Refugee Week in Fairfield CBD.

Odette had reached Year 10 of schooling in Syria but wasn’t permitted to continue studying in Lebanon, where her family fled during the civil war and remained for three years while waiting on an Australian visa. She found work at a beauty salon, where she was trained in hair and nails, and became a nail artist.

“Things were not good in Syria because in our culture girls can’t do everything they want – even the art,” Odette explained.

“I couldn’t do anything because they would say to me, ‘Arts don’t give you your future’. Even then, I didn’t stop thinking I could do it. I couldn’t; it’s my dream. I realised I will move, and I will do it.

“Lebanon was the best years in my life because I improved myself, my communication and understanding people. I had freedom to try to do something I couldn’t do in my country. But I couldn’t wait to come to Australia.”

While in Lebanon, Odette taught herself English using YouTube, and on arriving in Australia was tested with a “Level 1 high” result. Now just 18 months later, and through two hard lockdowns, Odette has completed Certificate I and II in Spoken and Written English and is well on her way to completing Certificate III. She has also completed a Navitas English course in Digital Literacy Skills for Life and Work (levels 2 and 3), and Pathways to Work in customer service, which included two weeks’ retail work experience. She is about to enrol in the online English for Driving course.

Odette (second from left) loves creating art. Pictured here with classmates from the Navitas English Fairfield Youth Class.

Odette said when she came to Navitas English she was overwhelmed by the support of staff, teachers and the community, who told her she could do anything she set her mind to. She said it was such a contrast to the messages she had received in her homeland.

She said: “I hope I can help other girls in this situation because in our culture they make girls feel down. I didn’t let them make me feel down. I just try and try to be stronger. All through my life I wanted to help people like this. I like to speak up for other people so they can do it too.”

Odette said MYAN was a new “challenge” for her but one that she was excited about.

“All through my life I’ve wanted to help others and be a leader,” she said.

“My parents always tell me that I have what it takes to become a good politician or a Member of Parliament to represent the people and fight for their cause. I am encouraged by their confidence in me and everyone who tells me, ‘You can do it’.

“I understand that I have a long way ahead of me, but I am determined to continue my studies and improve myself to be able to reach my goals and support other young people. I thank my family and Navitas for their support and I am confident that I can be a good role model for young people.”

Odette (bottom L-R) with youth teacher Camilla Portella, art teacher Rachel Chua, fellow students and Fairfield College Academic Team Leader Chen Zhao (top right) with their artworks on display in Fairfield CBD.

Navitas English Stakeholder Engagement Manager Genevieve Lewis encouraged Odette to apply for the MYAN opportunity because she “cares about others and has the confidence to be a spokesperson for youth, to advocate on their behalf”.

“Over the years, I have seen MYAN youth ambassadors run presentations and deliver amazing workshops and realised that Odette would really benefit from being an ambassador,” Genevieve said.

“Odette is bright, energetic, always willing to assist others and is a born leader. MYAN will build on her positive traits and confidence and provide her with opportunities to shine and succeed in her settlement journey and connect with other youth. Her warmth and happiness is amazingly infectious.”

In her role as a youth ambassador, Odette will:

  • Attend, and sometimes chair, regular meetings with other MYAN youth ambassadors;
  • Shape and participate in the delivery of MYAN projects that amplify the voices of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to influence the national agenda, including online events and digital campaigns;
  • Work alongside MYAN staff and the State and Territory Advocacy Network (STAN) to participate in key events;
  • Strengthen leadership and advocacy skills through training opportunities and access to resources;
  • Identify and speak on key issues affecting young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in the national arena; and
  • Develop national networks, make an impact and have some fun!

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