“It is through United Nation High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), the Australia Government and its people I rediscovered my human dignity, pride, purpose and liberty”

The journey that took me to where I am today…

I was born in a tiny village of Kerchomba, about 140 kilometres north of Juba, the capital of South Sudan. In 1990 at the age of 10, I was taken, under the pretext of education, by the Sudan People Liberation Movement rebels fighting the government of Sudan at the time. This forceful removal resulted in prolonged suffering and torment from the rebel leaders. The man-made adversities which I endured included torture, forced labour, sleep and food deprivation resulted into great destitution.

I slept in cold and wet squalid conditions with no blankets and only hessian bags to keep me warm. The ordeal continued until 2000 when I escaped to Kenya to seek refuge. Although there was shelter, rationed food and basic security in the camp, the eight-year old Kakuma camp, located in north-western Kenya, presented unique challenges. Being a refugee was the defining movement of my life in that I finally felt that hope was something that could be possible again. At first I thought I had arrived in a place where dreaming was possible, hopefully for the last time, only to realise the hopelessness and despair invading my life again. This adversity lasted for another four years until hope, that was real and tangible, was afforded to migrate to Australia. I arrived in Perth, Western Australia, in 2004.

perth-city-skyline

My Life down under

While in Australia, I sought employment in various sectors and volunteered for St Vincent de Paul and MercyCare. My service at MercyCare drew immediate media attention. I noted, many migrants remain grateful to the Australian government and its people. With this in mind, the desire to reciprocate the compassion afforded to them is insatiable. 

Like many migrants I want to express my appreciation through assisting newly arrived migrants (refugees and asylum seekers) to settle more easily in Australia through sharing my own life experience. In every opportunity, I have always mentored young people and the newly arrived, especially from CALD backgrounds, to embrace these new challenges with hope and optimism.

I have also acted as a conduit between government agencies and other relevant services with communities. By sharing my own personal
experience I was able to assist the Federal Government Human Service Department appreciates issues affecting migrants from similar backgrounds. In April 2016 I was made a panel member and spoke about his experience, about what it means to be living a life on the mercy of others, during the Catholic Youth Conference organised by Catholic Diocese of Perth Catholic Youth Conference at Santa Maria College, Attadale. In September same year I was honoured and awarded by MercyCare a Certificate of Recognition for living the values of the organisation. In December 2016 my life story excerpt featured in the Diocese of Perth Catholic Magazine, the Record following publication two (2) months prior.

On the 3rd of December 2016, I was interviewed by ABC News about my volunteering role with Mercy Care settlement services. In February 2018 I was invited to speak at the Rotary of Perth to share my life experience followed by a subsequent public speaking at Willeton Rotary July 2018. In October same year I spoke about integration into Australia at (Federation of Equatoria Community Association in Australia (FECAA) conference in Melbourne. On February 2019 I had the opportunity to speak Asylum Seekers at the Uniting Church, Nedlands. In February 2019 I was invited by the Department of Human Services to speak to its employees as part of educating public servants through refugees’ stories. I was also invited to be an inspirational speaker of MercyCare’s Australia Work Culture event for Skilled Migrants -followed by another engagement with the Department of Human Services (Child Support Division) where I shared the same story. My invitations as both an educational and inspirational speaker continued as on the 1st of March 2019 I was invited to be a guest speaker again by the Uniting Church Nedlands for the Youth.

I assisted in the organisation of the first ever Equatoria Community Association in WA Cultural day, attended by government officials including the Australia Federal Government Attorney General, The Hon. Christian Porter on the 9th of March 2019. And on the 5th of April 2019, I was invited again by the Department of Human Services to share my personal journey with their staff. I work as a Trainer and Assessor delivering Certificate courses and related workshops on Disability and Ageing. I was nominated as contender for the 2018 WA Trainer and Assessor of the year. In the last 18 months I have been writing my biography which is now being considered for publishing. 

And as a person who experienced adversaries for a very long periods of time, I want to do everything possible within my ability to support disadvantaged children across the globe

Philip-Lako-Perth-Rotary

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