Changing the lives of refugees and migrants in Victoria, Australia
Hemma, Volunteer, The Water Well Project, Australia.
“The pain, the hope and the love that I heard in her voice put everything in perspective. I was not just educating, I was giving them the skills and the knowledge that they would need to have a new beginning.”
In late 2011, two young doctors, Dr Linny Phuong & Dr Caitlin O’Mahony, facilitated a pilot health information session with an Ethiopian community group in Melbourne, Australia. Almost 200 people stayed behind after church to participate in the diabetes session. With only a microphone, flipchart and community leader to interpret, Linny and Cailtin had the community group eagerly listening, discussing and asking questions. From these humble beginnings, The Water Well Project was born.
The Water Well Project is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve the health literacy of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Melbourne, Australia. As a paediatric doctor in training, Dr Linny Phuong saw a need for culturally appropriate, health information for refugees, asylum seekers and new migrants. She knew that in traditional communities, when people collected water at rivers, water pumps and wells, that’s where they would take the time to talk. So adapting that model, Linny set up her Water Well project – a community health program where people could meet and talk informally.
The Water Well Project provides migrants, refugees and asylum seekers the unique opportunity to engage with nurses, midwives, doctors and allied health professionals within their desired cultural environment enabling participants to feel comfortable asking questions about specific health issues and access to health care and resources. The health initiative has several health topics that aim to ensure that people of refugee background are given access to health education and are kept safe and well in Australia; navigating the healthcare system, healthy eating, diabetes, heart health, mental illness and contraception.
Since 2013, The Water Well Project has supported over 800 community attendees, facilitated more than 100 health sessions, and had over 150 volunteer health professionals facilitate health sessions.
In 2014, The Water Well Project was recognised for their contribution in the Victorian Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Action Plan 2014-2018 and nominated as finalists in the City of Melbourne Awards for Community Contribution. Thanks to the vital work of volunteers and the support of partner organisations, the initiative has now established health information sessions in the Barwon region, 75km south-west of the state capital, Melbourne.
For more information or to get involved please visit The Water Well Project’s:
Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/The.Water.Well.Project