21 June 2024

'My life was in danger and this country helped me': Khairi is giving back to his new Riverina home

| Chris Roe
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Khairi Jolo has found a home within the Wagga NSW SES.

Khairi Jolo has found a home within the Wagga SES. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga’s Khairi Jolo was living in a refugee camp in Turkey in 2019 after fleeing persecution in Iraq when he saw news footage of the devastating Black Summer bushfires on television.

“I remember seeing the bushfires raging along the east coast of Australia and I told my friends that if I were there, I would definitely volunteer to help the community,” Khairi said.

Just a few months later, he and members of his Yazidi community were granted asylum in Australia and, true to his word, Khairi began volunteering with the local Wagga Wagga SES in 2021.

“What I love about Wagga Wagga is the community’s warm welcome to refugees,” he explained.

“My life was in danger and this country helped me. People in Wagga Wagga have always been supportive and open, so I want to give back to the community.”

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Wagga is now home to hundreds of Yazidi families who were forced to flee their homes during persecution from the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“I left Iraq in 2014 and was a refugee in a Turkish camp until 2020. The camp I lived in was a small Yazidis village, which included about 34 other families,” Khairi said.

“I was my community’s contact person with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). I was in constant communication with UNHCR and local authorities in my village’s area to relay the difficulties the community faced and to find solutions to those problems.

“I received honourable recognition through correspondence from the UNHCR for protecting my community from discrimination and racism.”

After fleeing persecution in Iraq, Yazidi man Khairi Jolo loves giving back to his new community in Wagga.

After fleeing persecution in Iraq, Yazidi man Khairi Jolo loves giving back to his new community in Wagga. Photo: Supplied.

As he settled into his new home, Khairi said that volunteering with the NSW SES helped him make friends and develop a sense of belonging.

“Volunteering allows me to give back to the community and this country, which saved my life from genocide, racism, discrimination, and persecution,” he said.

“The best part is that no one judges your English language level or mistakes. Additionally, organisations like the Multicultural Council and TAFE are incredibly supportive, playing a crucial role in the success of refugees.

“I am motivated by the opportunity to help my community during emergencies and disasters. Our commander and team leaders are amazingly helpful with members whose first language is not English.”

READ ALSO Research project looks at connecting skilled refugees with understaffed employers in regional Australia

Khairi was put to the test with his NSW SES unit during the floods in the Riverina in 2022 but said the challenge deepened his connection with the local area.

“It was a really exhaustive time. I worked eight hours and still attended the unit to assist the community,” he recalled.

“We had numerous tasks to complete, including door knocking and helping to evacuate people.”

Looking ahead, Khairi hopes to keep giving back to his new home and sharing something of his own traditions with the locals.

“I would like to share my Yazidi culture by organising cultural exchange events, introducing our customs, food, and music, and participating in community events to foster mutual understanding and appreciation.”

Refugee Week in Australia runs from Sunday 16 June to Saturday 22 June and is aimed at promoting greater awareness of refugees, the issues they face and the contributions they make to the Australian community.

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