Mandy Roberts and Dolkar Lhatso are two women from very different corners of the globe. Mandy was born in Sydney, Australia and Dolkar was born in a rural village in North-East Tibet. Today, both women live in Sydney’s northern beaches and have developed a very special bond through the Tibetan Refugee Mentoring program.
Running for 8 years, this program involves volunteers undertaking a 6 week TAFE course and extensive screening program before being matched with a Tibetan refugee who has recently arrived in Australia. Mandy Roberts, from Clontarf, undertook the course in 2015 after reading about it in the Manly Daily. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to arrive in a new country with no family or friends” she says, “I thought it sounded like something genuinely worthwhile and a way we could give back as a family.”
After 6 weeks Mandy was matched with Dolkar and her family- including her husband, Jimpa, and two young children, Rangdol and Saldon who had all recently arrived in Australia on Humanitarian visas.
“In the beginning my main role was to help Dolkar find her feet in Australia and settle into her new life here,” says Mandy. “We can forget how simple tasks such as enrolling her children in school, paying electricity bills and reading food labels can be so hard for someone who speaks little or no English.”
After two years in the program, Dolkar and Mandy have become very close. Their families share Christmas BBQ’s and Mandy’s family watched Saldon and Rangdol in their primary school Easter hat parade.
“I also do things like help her sort through and read her mail, apply for jobs and take her and her children to appointments in the city. The children love spending time with my two daughters so we also spend time at Dee Why beach.”
Whilst Dee Why’s Tibetan refugee community is an incredible source of community and culture for recently migrated families, the mentoring program offers another form of support and can help these individuals feel welcomed and integrated into society.
“Dolkar makes incredible Tibetan food for us whenever we visit, her Mo Mo’s are delicious. They are a beautiful family, I learn just as much from Dolkar and her family as they do from us. “