Lentara’s FreshStart wins global award

FreshStart and Asylum Seeker Program

Mohammed Isah (left), Program Manager of the Lentara UnitingCare Asylum Seeker Program with Sameer Sondhi, Director of Strategy and Growth at
Lentara UnitingCare.

Lentara UnitingCare’s social enterprise, FreshStart Asset Services, has been recognised with Gold for Innovative and Creative Partnerships at the Global Best Awards.

The biannual awards are decided by a panel of international judges and celebrate outstanding business, education and community organisation partnerships. It is hosted by the IPN (International Partnership Network) and the Conference Board of Canada.

The FreshStart pilot program was launched in December last year with the vision of developing sustainable career pathways for asylum seekers. It provides a range of professional cleaning and event services while creating employment opportunities for vulnerable members of the community.

It currently employs 15 asylum seekers who deliver cleaning services across Lentara’s 20 operating sites. Program participants also provide logistics support to Central Melbourne Sunrise Rotary Club at their weekly Farmer’s Market, held in the Melbourne CBD.

Employment can provide a sense of pride, purpose and accomplishment for new migrants. It also acts as a buffer against depression, isolation and poverty, which many asylum seekers experience while they wait for their applications to be processed.

Many people seeking asylum face significant social and economic barriers to employment. Their overseas qualifications may not be recognised in Australia. Bridging visa conditions can also limit the type of work they can participate in.

The FreshStart program helps employees become familiarised with the Australian workplace and improve their English skills. Participants attend classes where they are trained in hygienic cleaning practices. They are also given the opportunity to learn in a practical environment, such as Lentara’s offices in Broadmeadows, Sunshine and Brunswick.

FreshStart has a strong emphasis on supporting staff to transition to higher paid employment and eventually economic independence. This means providing mentoring and training opportunities in accordance with the employee’s career aspirations. Training is funded with profits from FreshStart activities, along with philanthropic donations and partnerships with Registered Training Organisations (RTO).

Lentara CEO Ann-Maree Colborne will travel to Oslo, Norway on 14 September to receive the award at the official Global Best Awards ceremony.

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