More than 20-thousand refugees come to Australia every year, leaving many women, men and children experiencing unemployment, trauma and social isolation across the country.
In contrast to that, the spirit of Woodford Folk Festival is to create ‘connection,’ attracting a community of likeminded thinkers to encourage and promote social justice and change.
It is here, amongst the Woodfordians that Saba Abrahams is running a social enterprise to give Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees in Australia a sense of purpose through employment.
Founded in 2003 by the Eritrean Australian Women & Family Support Network Inc, Mu’ooz has set up a delicious food stall at the festival for the third year running.
For the past seven years, Mu’ooz has helped more than 160 refugee women with real life work experience, training and employment.
This provides them with the opportunity to learn and develop in a safe space, surrounded by people who understand and provide support.
Saba Abrahams herself is vision of celebration, dressed in a traditional red dress and adorned with an Eritrean scarf; she is a symbol of hope.
“It is amazing to find safety in Australia, but it’s very difficult to integrate, if you don’t have language or communication skills, you cannot connect,” Saba says.
“The feeling of isolation is so strong, and it is too much to begin this process from zero.”
Part of the Mu’ooz experience is the traditional coffee ceremony, roasted, ground and filtered onsite, the morning and afternoon rituals are accompanied by popcorn and excellent company.
Fellow Woodfordian and Mu’ooz customer Miriam Forte is enjoying a fragrant lunch while we are speaking to Saba, and is intrigued to understand more about the ethos of this quaint little eatery.
“I personally have been working with refugees and asylum seekers teaching English,” Mrs Forte says.
“To support a cause like this one is something that fills me with much appreciation, and the fact that the food is delicious and caters for me and my pregnancy make the choice so easy.”
Saba says they cater to refugees’ needs as much as possible, as the trauma associated with being displaced from one’s country limits their opportunities to integrate into Australia.
“Mu’ooz helps these women use their cultural skills to create a safe place where they are a valued member of a community, a space where they can be built up as individuals,” Saba says.