The Centre for Multicultural Youth
Alice Chew is a member of the Baha'i faith, the youngest independent religion in the world.
"In Baha'i we believe that people from all different faiths can live harmoniously together because they all fundamentally believe in the same things: love, peace, respect," Alice says.
"When I was at university I wanted to meet other young people who belonged not only to the Baha'i faith but to other religions as well," she says. "I wanted to find out what they thought about a broad range of topics from religion to all other aspects of life."
Multifaith Multicultural Youth Mentoring
Members of Alice's Baha'i community told her to check out the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) (new window), which was organising just such a program.
"It was called Multifaith Multicultural Youth Mentoring (MMYM), and it was exactly what I was looking for: a chance to meet other young people from diverse backgrounds," Alice says.
The CMY has been helping refugees and young people from migrant backgrounds for 20 years.
They offer a range of services, from arts programs to projects that link young people back to their homelands. They also offer just good old support for young people who are looking for some advice or are having troubles adjusting.
For nine weeks in 2009 Alice met with 20 other young people for a series of two-hour-long workshops. They discussed a whole range of topics and got to hear from adults who worked in every facet of society.
"The best thing about it is that we didn't just talk about our faiths. One week we had a session about sustainability. Another was about how to behave in the workforce," she says.
"It was pretty cool to be able to get opinions and ideas from young people from so many different faiths and find out what we all had in common."
At the end of the program, Alice and her group put together a multifaith art exhibition.
"We got multicultural young artists to submit their work and then we rented a space in Bourke St. It was underground, a funky old wine cellar that we turned into an art gallery for a couple days. It was amazing what we achieved with the help of CMY."
Giving something back
Now that she has finished university, Alice has ended up with a job working for the Centre for Multicultural Youth. She says she loves getting involved in something that does so much for young people.
"It's really cool to give back to something that helped me so much. Now rather than participating in the centre's programs, I help organise them. I love being a part of that," she says.
"Right now I'm matching youth groups with people who can help them achieve their goals. It's kinda like what the MMYM program did for me. That art exhibition was proof that I could achieve my goals."
Currently, the Centre for Multicultural Youth is putting together a mentoring program for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. It's called Ucan2 (new window).
Young people between 16 and 24 from refugee backgrounds can put their hand up to be part of the program, which begins in June 2010 and is all about improving your social, education, training, and employment opportunities.
But Ucan2 isn't just for young migrants. The centre is looking for young people from all kinds of backgrounds to spend two hours a week mentoring these refugees and letting them in on the secrets of what it's like to live and study in Australia
Leanne McGaw from CMY says that Ucan2 is all about sharing experiences, meeting new people and making new friends.
"Like many of the programs at CMY, Ucan2 aims to introduce young people who have migrated Australia to young people who have lived here all their lives," she says.
"For the refugees it's a fantastic opportunity to learn social skills and pick up tips on how study or find a job in Australia. But our volunteer mentors get so much out of it too. They get to meet people they might never have met otherwise and get a fantastic insight into someone else's life."
Volunteers will spend an afternoon a week sharing their knowledge, experience and skills with newly arrived young people. That means helping them write a resume, use a computer, shop for outfits to wear to a job interview, or just chatting about how to balance work, study and family commitments.
And the best thing about Ucan2?
"You make fantastic friends and it completely opens your eyes to what young people from other backgrounds are really like," says Leanne. "You develop a relationship with the guys and girls you're mentoring and you're helping them more than you can imagine."
Other programs for young people
The Centre for Multicultural Youth always has something on for young people who are from migrant backgrounds and for young people who aren't.
- If you're part of a youth group you can share skills, knowledge and experiences with other young people in the Building Relationships and Initiating Change Program (new window).
- If you're a young person from a refugee or migrant background and have something to say, you can join the Voices of Freedom Youth Network (new window).
- You can also take part in the Multicultural Arts Program (new window) or Sports and Recreation Programs (new window).
It doesn't matter what you're interested in or where you're from the Centre for Multicultural Youth has plenty of opportunties to get involved.
You never know what you'll get out of it, but you can be sure it'll be life-changing for you... and for the people you're helping.
Articles Written by Elisa
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