TAFE small business graduates, from left, Luz Press of Lismore, Mengli Howarth of Bentley, Martha Ferguson of North Lismore, Genet Kitumaini of Lismore, Kitumaini Bisoka of East Lismore, Qiuping Johnston (second from back left) of Casino and Lee Carter of Lismore.
TAFE small business graduates, from left, Luz Press of Lismore, Mengli Howarth of Bentley, Martha Ferguson of North Lismore, Genet Kitumaini of Lismore, Kitumaini Bisoka of East Lismore, Qiuping Johnston (second from back left) of Casino and Lee Carter of Lismore. Jacklyn Wagner

International flavour

A KALEIDOSCOPE of smiling faces, English spoken with a dozen different accents, and a smorgasbord of beautiful food from all over the world marked the end of an eight-week small business course for international students at the Lismore TAFE college yesterday.

The students, from Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, China, the Philippines, Kenya, Sudan, Ecuador and Thailand, had been learning how to set up a market stall from their teacher Mei-Lin Marlin, with back-up from English language teacher Rose Francis, and Lismore Carboot Market co-ordinator, Marney Bonner.

Ms Marlin described her multi-cultural group as "enthusiastic, motivated, and a great load of fun and laughter, even though some of them have been through difficult times".

Difficult times indeed for refugee Kitumaini Bisoka, who spent five years in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, with her husband and three eldest children, now 14, eight and six, and pregnant with her fourth, now aged three.

"While I was pregnant with that one, my husband and I had to work in the camp on food distribution," Ms Bisoka told The Northern Star.

"It was really hard. That baby was born in the camp, while we were waiting, waiting for our application to come to Australia to be processed.

"It was hard to start a new life with no money, and to leave behind people we loved. My mother is still in Africa."

Ms Bisoka, who as well as speaking the clan language of her village, speaks Swahili, French and English, said the Sanctuary Lismore organisation who helped resettle her family had been very good to them.

"They had a house planned for us in Goonellabah," she said. "But then they heard we couldn't have children there.

"So they found us another house and we're very happy there.

"And I found an Australian friend who's become like a mother to me, not far from where I live. She even has the same name as my mother - Noeleen. If I need anything, I can always go to her."

Over the past eight weeks, Ms Marlin has been loading her students up with all the information they will need to set up a business and run a stall at the Lismore Carboot Market.

Some will sell prepared food in the style of their country of origin, others fruit and vegetables, some are thinking of selling clothes from Africa, and bead necklaces - adding an international flavour to the markets.



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