by Rosie Schefe

‘If I were in Africa, I would be very old’, Baindu loudly declares. ‘In Africa every day is hard work.’

‘You have to go bush to get wood before you can cook. You walk half an hour to get water. Anything you need, you have to walk long distance. You put wood on the fire all the time until cooking is finished. You sleep and you cook in the same place, very smoky’.

Not that hard work frightens this widow, mother of seven children and grandmother of ten. After seven years in Australia, Baindu is still working hard to give her family the best possible chance of success in this country.

The women are all from different countries; we all met here. We are building a foundation for each family.

Baindu comes from Liberia in West Africa, where bloody civil war is a recent memory. She took her children to uncertain refuge in neighbouring Sierra Leone following the death of her husband.

‘They would chase people for money. If you would not give them money, then they would kill you.’ Baindu and her family spent eight years in refugee camps in Sierra Leone before they came to Australia in 2007. ‘We came here and everything is good— even if you’re not married they help you a lot’, she says. For Baindu, whose own literacy is poor, education has been a top priority. While in Sierra Leone some of her children were sponsored to go to school, but when sponsorship ran out, they had to pay. Medication was also difficult to obtain without access to money. Now, she says, her children speak good English and the two still living at home are in school (a son in Year 10 and a daughter in Year 11). She has very high hopes for them.

I met Baindu over lunch at the Lutheran Community Sewing Group (LCSG), which gathers at Good News Lutheran Church in Albert Park, a north-western suburb of Adelaide with its own high migrant population. It was Baindu’s graduation day, an acknowledgement of her persistence and new levels of skill. Although she began to sew on ancient pedal machines in refugee camps, now she can use an electric machine, she understands the uses of different fabrics and can read a sewing pattern for herself.

Subscribe here to receive stories & upcoming issues in full