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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Soccer helps refugees and asylum seekers thrive

Congratulations to the Refugee Health Soccer Team who won the inaugural ‘SEDA welcomes SEEKERS’ Soccer Tournament last week in Ringwood.

An initiative of the Monash Health Refugee Health & Wellbeing Service, the Social Soccer program provides opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers to play informal soccer games in Dandenong and Doveton.

“In the initial stages of settlement, refugees face significant challenges such as language barriers, housing instability, financial stress and unemployment,” said Dr Andrew Block, Director of Refugee Health at Monash Health.

“The Social Soccer concept was developed in response to the high number of males presenting at the Monash Health Refugee Health & Wellbeing Service who were experiencing mental health issues and identifying as being socially isolated.”

“In light of recent policy changes restricting employment rights of asylum seekers, spaces for socialisation and strengthening of communities is vital,” said Refugee Health Team Leader, Catherine Fulgoni.
The Social Soccer Program is consistently well attended with 20 – 30 participants each week.

“Participants have reported they appreciate the social aspect of meeting other players and Monash Health staff, as well as keeping physically active,” said Rob Koch, Refugee Health Community Development Coordinator. “Some participants have told us that the weekly soccer game is the only thing they look forward to.”

The Social Soccer program continues to evolve; regular health education sessions now incorporate topics such as accessing health care, volunteer opportunities and mental health.

The match last week was between asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran and secondary students from training organisation SEDA, who chose Monash Health Refugee Health & Wellbeing Service for a community engagement event as part of their VCAL course.

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