IN 2002 a young woman left Ethiopia, a country plagued by famine and unrest between the government and local tribes, in search of a better life.
She found herself in a refugee camp in Kenya, where she spent the next seven years before being granted a refugee visa to Australia.
Terefech Yako met her husband, Berhanu Geda, also a refugee, in the camp in Kenya.
They both came from the same tribe in Ethiopia, although they hadn’t known one another.
“We were married in Kenya in the refugee camp,” Terefech said.
The couple had a son, Menase, now nine, while they were living there.
He was four when the family came to Australia to live in Ulladulla.
“It’s nice, it’s good. I can’t compare it with African life,” Terefech said.
“It was a very bad area in Kenya in the refugee camp. Every day was 41, 42 [degrees]. We lived only in a tent.
“My life in Ethiopia wasn’t bad, before the government make problems for the people.”
Terefech worked as a veterinarian in Ethiopia and is part of the Sidama tribe, one of 85 tribes in the country.
The Sidama tribe has had conflict with the government over its autonomy.
Now Terefech cares for her family, which includes three children born in Australia, a daughter Nardos, 4, a second son Aron, 2, and a second daughter, Shalon, 13 months.
Berhanu is studying to gain qualifications in aged care.
“When we came to Ulladulla, we didn’t know anyone. Everything was new for us,” Terefech said.
The real-life stories of families like Terefech and Berhanu will be heard by the Shoalhaven community during Refugee Week (June 15-21).
A newly formed Amnesty International Berry Local Action Group will run three events in the Shoalhaven during the week to show the human faces of people who seek asylum.
All the events are free and open to the public.
The award winning Australian documentary, Mary meets Mohammad, will screen at St Luke’s Church Hall in Berry on Monday, June 16 at 7pm.
The documentary follows the true story of an unlikely friendship that develops between Tasmanian pensioner Mary, a committed Christian and Mohammad, an Afghan Muslim asylum seeker imprisoned in the Pontville detention centre. Doors will open at 6.30pm.
A moving photographic exhibition, Faces of Asylum, which aims to dispel myths about refugees will be on display in Shoalhaven Library during the week.
On World Refugee Day, Friday, June 20 from 5pm Illawarra refugees will tell their stories in the library.
Faces of Asylum has been touring capital cities and rural centres across Australia to great acclaim.
Stories of families such as the Dad and Wazefadost families who fled Afghanistan due to persecution and death threats, are told through family portraits and accompanying text.
The Amnesty Berry Local Action Group is made up of local residents, all volunteers, and will also be officially launched at the library on Friday, June 20 from 5pm.