82. Akolda Bil

18 Sep

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23-year-old Akolda has come far in his life as a young Sudanese refugee. When I caught up with him, he was completing a student placement at Youth Foundation, which is an organisation that aims to promote youth empowerment and fund youth driven community projects. After helping to facilitate and MC the Youth Foundation End of Year Celebration Akolda is “100% keen to get involved in more projects involving, art, music and media,” and attain his “Certificate 4 in Community Services Diploma.

Akolda tells me that he first connected with Youth Foundation when he was at Parkville College Flexible Learning Centre, the educational facility at the Parkville Justice Centre.

During his incarceration 3 years ago, Akolda wanted to add a basketball hoop to the yard, as “there was no outdoor space during the breaks…you’d sit up against the wall and do nothing.” Working with the Youth Foundation to “make the basketball project happen meant we had an activity, a sport to do, something to connect with.”

Arriving in Australia in 2003, Akolda hoped to escape “the war, the negative vibes and pursue a better life.” But, Akolda struggled, “as many younger African refugee youth do.” His crimes as a younger man after coming to Australia from Sudan (as well as those of his siblings) “was disappointing to my mother…she didn’t bring me here to do this…to be a criminal.”

“Language barriers, lack of support, and not understanding the law system and the uncertainty of going in and out of court” made it hard for Akolda to avoid trouble and bad influence. He was  “anxious and uncertain” and left without guidance and purpose.

Akolda cites “pursuing an education” and “my mother telling me to better myself and get in the right mind space” as the key to reaching out and finding the support he needed to integrate into his community.

Now, he wants to “give back to the community who supported me by doing youth work in a multicultural setting, working with kids like me.” It can be hard to find “positive vibes,” he says, and to know “why they (the refugees in Parkville) are getting punished.” Even now Akolda still faces the occasional hardship due to his criminal record but is grateful for the help he received to make sure he has been able to find employment.

Akolda wants to pursue youth work in the area of advocacy and accessibility, collaborating with youth organisations. He also plans to work with Yarra Youth Services, helping into improve the youth music scene.

Akolda “gives props to Parkville College for giving me motivation and a good study environment.” Without study, “I don’t think I would have gotten this far,” he proclaims proudly. When I ask him what advice to give to young people who are have similar journeys to him, he says it’s important to “understand what’s going on in your community, always have hope, and never give up on your dreams.”

Words: Taylor Carre-Riddell

Picture: Sean Porter

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