Thursday, July 15, 2004

MELANIE KUTEK'S HELPING HAND

Melanie, 21, has charity in her golden heart. Who would have thought that a young woman in her prime of life would find real fulfillment in helping the African refugees in Australia?

The fact is that Melanie (friends call her Mel) is not an ordinary girl, but a girl on a mission to achieve greater things and help build a better society.

With brains and beauty on her side, it seems to me that she was born not only to think of the welfare of others but also to help those in need. “I have an interest in Africa and the African people for as long as I can remember” she says, “my first aim was to become a lawyer in order to help break-down the apartheid regime in South Africa…But that has already been accomplished by Nelson Mandela”.

Nevertheless, Mel’s interest in Africa has not waned. So it was that after finishing school a few years ago, she spent two months traveling across Africa; visiting Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa. It was a journey of a lifetime, and one that opened her eyes to the reality of the human condition in that continent.

“I think what most countries in Africa need is basic infrastructure, first aid facilities, hygiene, and medical education” she says with a great deal of conviction, “there are so many lives that can be saved, and so many hungry mouths to feed. Yet there are a lot of people who are still suffering” in Africa.

Mel knows quite too well that one doesn’t have to go to Africa to help the needy. Help is needed everywhere, especially in the newly emerging African communities in Australia.

Now studying at the University of South Australia, Mel’s creative mind is always at work; thinking about the welfare of others. And exploring options for a better life. “I decided that I wanted to become involved with developing African community in Adelaide (South Australia)” Mel says. “And not knowing where to start, I contacted the Australian Refugee Association (ASA)”. She also decided to get in touch with the Gilles Street Primary School which has a program for ‘New Arrivals” students and began working with the Sudanese students and students from various other countries.

It was the fulfillment of a dream. Through talking with the children, Mel realized that there were very few opportunities for the African children to get involved in the Adelaide community outside the school environment. Something had to be done!

This got Mel’s humanitarian impulse working overtime; thinking of the different ways in which she could help the newly arrived migrants and refugees settle into their new lives in Australia. “My first idea was to start a basketball team, as this is an area in which I have a lot of experience, both coaching and playing” she says. Here, the principal assumption was that basketball will give the children something physical and positive to do; helping to keep them off the streets.

Mel’s experiment is working. The basketball project is one of the most popular projects in the African community today. But she needs more support and more funding from various sources, so that she can keep the project going.

Finally, Mel’s next project (and the most ambitious of the lot) is to help “The Lost Boys” (whom we featured on this blog recently) find their feet in Australian society. Being young and community conscious, she is extremely knowledgeable about the critical issues facing young people as they try to establish themselves in a new country.

Have you any encouraging word or suggestions for Mel? Please use this medium to express your views.


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