JOURNEY FROM EXILE: Promoting the Sanctuary Northern Rivers Gala Dinner are Cherie Nash (with lollipop), Zilpha Menghetti (left) and Corinne Nash reflected in the mirror.
JOURNEY FROM EXILE: Promoting the Sanctuary Northern Rivers Gala Dinner are Cherie Nash (with lollipop), Zilpha Menghetti (left) and Corinne Nash reflected in the mirror. Jacklyn Wagner

Given a second chance at life

A FAMILY from Sierra Leone estranged for nine years were finally reunited after not even knowing if their loved ones were alive.

These are the moments Sanctuary Northern Rivers President Michael Douglas relishes.

“The high point is always their arrival,” he said. “Regardless of the hardships ahead, once they're here their life has purpose and opportunity.”

For those who have experienced trauma and upheaval in their lives as refugees, often in their own home country, Sanctuary Northern Rivers has become a lifeline and secure haven to a new life in Australia.

This Saturday, as a way to celebrate the 'second chance' that many have experienced, the not-for-profit organisation is planning a Gala Dinner at the A&I Hall at Bangalow.

“The dinner will fulfil a couple of functions,” Mr Douglas said. “The first one is for people to have an opportunity to catch up with each other.

“Secondly, we want to give an insight into how we meet up with refugees.

“We want to expose the joys and disappointments of the process they go through in establishing their new life.”

The theme of the dinner entitled 'Letters of Hope, a refugee's journey from exile to a new home' highlights the expectations that Mr Douglas talks about.

The final function of the dinner, according to Mr Douglas is to also do some fund-raising.

“The demand for our services always outstrips our resources,” he said. “We are hoping to raise around $10,000 from the dinner.”

Since establishing the organisation on the Northern Rivers, Mr Douglas estimates that they have resettled between 100 to 120 people.

“They are all African and come from many different countries,” he said. “The range of people varies from young families and singles mainly between 15 to 25 years old.

“All of these people have been traumatised and yet the vast majority cope with great courage and strength.”

GALA DINNER DETAILS

THE dinner is on Saturday August 29 at 6.30pm at the A&I Hall, Bangalow. Tickets for the dinner are $60 each and can be purchased from Mullumbimby Bookshop, Goanna Bakery in Lismore or Bangalow Real Estate. Alternatively you can emailinfo@sanctuary.asn.au


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