19 December 2008

UQ students from residential college International House recently facilitated a youth leadership camp for a group of refugee students from Milpera State High School.

Coordinated by UQ medical student Alan Huynh, Projects for Peace saw 30 young refugees enjoy a fun-filled four days.

"Projects for Peace is an entirely student driven initiative which has evolved from a simple idea to a project which has attracted almost $20,000 in financial and in-kind support including from the Davis Peace Foundation," Mr Huynh said.

"That the project has achieved so much in such a short period of time shows that young people are capable of significant contribution if given the opportunity and support.

"I hope that it serves to encourage other young people to be more active in their local communities."

Milpera students attended the leadership and recreation camp from December 15-18, staying
at International House on UQ's St Lucia Campus.

Activities included a tour of the Science Centre at Southbank, a UQ Amazing Race around campus, an Australian sports afternoon, an international food cook off and a student art project - all capped off with a visit to Australia Zoo, which generously supported the project.

Deputy principal at Milpera High School, Helen Byrne said, once the academic school year finished, many of the young Milpera students were not able to enjoy social activities during the holidays.

"Six weeks of summer holidays is often a daunting prospect for newly arrived students of refugee background," Ms Byrne said.

"Unfamiliarity with the local area, as well as limited financial resources means that their choices for holiday activities are very limited.

"Most of them say that they would rather be at school than be bored and on holidays."

International House students believed they were well placed to develop a blended program of recreational activities with an underlying educational objective.

Dr Carla Tromans, Director of International House, praised the students for their initiative.

"It is impressive to see such commitment and enthusiasm from a group of young people," she said.

"Their willingness to step up, to identify an opportunity for social change and readily take responsibility to address the problem demonstrates maturity and insight which defies the negative stereotype of young people in general."

The International House students found one of the best ways to gain experience working with young refugees was to volunteer for Milpera High School's student support program.

International House resident Anthony Obeyesekere said his time helping at the school had been a fantastic experience.

"It has reinforced my appreciation for cultural diversity and my awareness of the hurdles faced by Australia's refugee community, while allowing me an opportunity to give back to society," he said.

Media: Mr Huynh (s4137820@student.uq.edu.au, 0413 853451) or Dr Tromans (director@inthouse.uq.edu.au, 07 3721 2480)