When we were 10 years old, one of our friends said that he had heard the adults say that Aleppo was going to turn into a war zone in less than year, and we felt such fear in our stomachs. We said, ‘No way, that’s never going to happen.’
But soon after that, our parents told us that they were applying to migrate to Australia. That night, we were so distraught, we were crying into our pillows. We felt there was no way that we could leave all our friends and our entire family to go to a country where the only thing we knew about was MasterChef!
Because of my father’s experience, how early we applied and the fact that he had done his Master of Agricultural in Perth, our application was successful. It all happened so quickly. When we left, our whole family came to our house to say goodbye. Our grandmother was hanging on to my cousins, sobbing as we drove away. It was heartbreaking to watch.
We arrived in Melbourne in the middle of the night. Family friends picked us up from the airport and drove us back to their house at 3am. Everything seemed so strange. We were surprised that we had to wear seatbelts, and to us all the houses in their street looked like the houses in American movies, as we had only ever lived in apartments. It took us a while to adjust. Since we arrived 6 years ago, we haven’t been able to see our family again. It’s especially difficult during holidays when we see everyone celebrate holidays with their families.
Our sister Joud went into year eight, and we went into an English language school for six months. It was challenging for all of us, as it was a new environment. Then we went into year 6, where we faced a lot of bullying from the other kids. It was a bad year, but we were lucky we had each other –
being a twin is like having a best friend there 24/7. But high school was better because everyone was new at the same time, and by then our English had improved a lot!
Last year in year 10 we had to do a work experience placement, and Sarah chose to do hers at Student Youth Network Media (SYN). At first, she was scared. But her first day was just fantastic. She learnt about all the opportunities that are provided for youth, and on the last day she told one of the staff she wanted to start a podcast called Refugees On Air, where she would interview refugees and share their point of view and their journeys. The staff member said it sounded amazing. She wrote Sarah a list of goals, and then both of us did training on how to use the recording studios and how to interview guests. So far, we’ve done 6 episodes!
Throughout the whole project, we have really supported each other. We have both tried to find opportunities, do research on the refugees we are going to interview, and to promote it. We’ve also had a lot of support from our school, church and SYN. We’re lucky in a way. When we pitch the podcast, it sounds so good saying we’re 16-year-old twins!
SYN Radio recently had an annual awards night, and Sarah won Best Newcomer. We also both won Best Under 18s Volunteer/Program, and the Diversity Program of the Year. It was an amazing night!
Next year is our year 12 and Joud will be halfway through her double degree of law and global studies, so it’s going to be full on. After school, we definitely want to continue SYN and study media and science at university.
This podcast means so much to us. It was something that we have wanted to do for so long. A lot of people have asked us why we do it even though we’re not refugees. But we feel it’s so important to use all the opportunities which have been provided to us to radiate the voices of those who sometimes may not have a voice, or who have been silenced.
Maya and Sarah
Photograph: Yashani Shantha www.facebook.com/coolstorybroproductions
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