Teenager Fatema Ebrahime speaks three languages. She insists that her English is "not so good”, but like many newly arrived people, the expectations to speak fluently and without an accent can be all-consuming. Fatema can easily describes her love of volleyball - the way it makes her “happy” and gives her a sense of purpose. However, playing the sport can be remarkably challenging for a person new to Australia. The combination of registration costs, travel issues and timing of events are significant hurdles of participation. An Afghan refugee, born and raised in Iran, Fatema arrived in Australia one year ago with her four siblings.
Fatema’s fascination with volleyball started at nine years old in Iran when her uncle encouraged her to play. When she arrived in Australia she didn’t have anywhere to play, so Fatema worked with community leaders to set up after-school matches in the local area and attracting many young people. She explained “I made the teams by asking my friends if anyone wanted to play. Fifteen of my friends came and five of their friends! Many people just came to speak with their friends and then they played”.
The community volleyball matches continued for three months and allowed Fatema to demonstrate her qualities as a skilful team player and leader amongst her peers. She describes herself as “honest, friendly and a good listener” and added “I can understand feelings and thoughts, people like to talk about their plans with me”.
She always encourages her friends play volleyball socially, but believes she needs to play in a mainstream club. “Joining a volleyball club will be good for me. I will have somewhere where I can continue to play”. However, as training sessions and matches are often in the evenings, Fatema acknowledged “the timing is not good. I can’t use public transport at that time.” Club registration costs are also an issue. Fatema is self-motivated and doesn’t want to put a financial strain on her family. She continues to look for after-school work, so she can fund her passion to play volleyball.
While she hasn’t joined a volleyball club yet, Fatema has joined the Dandenong Women’s Sports Hub attending volleyball sessions being run by the Centre for Multicultural Youth after school. Centre for Multicultural Youth, Youth Facilitator, Yasamine Moslih, is inspired by the way Fatema has approached school, family and social challenges since arriving in Australia. Moslih said “I have seen Fatema at every volleyball session we’ve had! Fatema has proven to me how passionate and determined she is to fulfil her dreams of playing volleyball, and it just makes me want to support her in every way that I can.”
Moslih added “I have not only seen her improve in her skills, but she has demonstrated confidence and commitment, always being the first to show up and the last to leave. When I see her play and when we speak about volleyball, I can see what a positive impact it has on her life, it is indeed very telling of how much love she has for the sport”.
Fatema is a multi-talented young person. She plays the guitar, clarifying that “I’m still a beginner!” and is looking to build on her favourite genres of ‘Persian’ and ‘sad’ music. She is studying at high school and is aiming to serve as a Police Officer in the future. But her short-term goals are clear “My next steps are to find an after-school job which help me to pay for volleyball fees”. She then added “I love volleyball... too much!”
A special thank you to Chobani Australia for their support of Centre for Multicultural Youth / Sports Without Borders programs and for encouraging social inclusion of new and emerging communities through sport.