Can you imagine hearing those words on the other end of the phone? At first I wasn't sure I heard right. The man on the other end of the line was South African and he had found my number in the magazine. He wanted me to tell his story so no-one else has to go through the same ordeal. Can you imagine being so despondent that you would consider taking such a drastic step? Especially when you have a beautiful wife and three gorgeous kids?
The whole migration experience can be exceptionally stressful. I saw the devastating effects of depression as a result of migration stress first hand with a male family member. I have been known to express my concerns for South African men in Australia. Sure, many come out and soar like eagles. Being in Australia seems to just empower them, yet some can be totally crushed by it, and we need to be aware of this!
Coping with the pressures of being the family provider, the one that everyone looks up to and expects to just “sort it out” can be extremely taxing, and I speak from personal experience. The moment I allude to feeling overwhelmed or feeling under pressure or stressed, my wife will play her mock miniature violin and say “ag shame!” We're it mate!
Talk all you want, it doesn't fix anything. When you don't know how you're going to feed your family tomorrow and you're faced with being kicked out of the country because you're on a 457 and your employer has just retrenched a whole lot of people including yourself, and neither you or your family can face the prospect of returning to a place where you were hijacked and shot in front of your kids; lucky to be alive ... or are you?
At least if you're not around then maybe someone will take pity on your wife and kids and actually DO something. Everyone's so busy living their own lives. Those who have compassion do not have the means to help. Those with the means to help are too busy enjoying the spoils to bother noticing.
The night Mark phoned me was their two year anniversary in Australia. The first migration agent they dealt with did a runner with their money. The next agent was unable to complete their visa applications due to legislation changes. Gross errors were made by immigration, and there are many others who have experienced the same. I spoke with a South African lawyer in Sydney who sued for these very same reasons, and won! He is now looking for others to take part in a class action case. These are people's lives they're dealing with!
Mark's story actually made TV over in Western Australia a year ago. Since then he had managed to get a “sponsor”, only then to be let down again. What put him over the edge was when the migration officer called him and said his employer/ sponsor had never submitted the required documents and that they were defaulting back to the original visas. As a result he had only 5 days to get a new sponsor or get out of the country. That's right, not even 28 days, just 5!
“I'm just so tired” Mark said to me. I knew that no amount of talking about how he was feeling was going to do anything. We needed a miracle and we needed it fast. I convinced him to give me 3 days to sort out his visa and find him a new sponsor. Hey, at that point I would have promised him ANYTHING just to prevent him from stepping off the cliff!
I must have sounded very convincing, because he agreed to let me help. I immediately started phoning and emailing everyone on my database including the SBN network (Sabona Business Network). I asked for anyone who can help with either the visas, getting him a sponsored job, and to raise some much needed cash for whatever we were going to need to pay for. Letitia de Lima of Visas-R-Us (http://www.visasrus.com.au/) was the first one to come up with the goods. She offered to do his visa at no cost, and even pay all his application fees! Have you tried contacting a migration agent lately? Good luck! They're extremely busy. Letitia dropped everything to help.
We found a job sponsor by 5pm on the 3rd day. We had our miracle! The support we received from the South African community (as well as all the Aussies that are part of the SBN) was astounding. We raised over $4,000 which we've used to pay some of Mark's rent, their medicals for the new visas and some other expenses. Mark was employed by Sign-a-Rama in Burswood WA. If you need a sign for your business contact them, they deserve our support!
There were many others keen to look at his CV to see if they could possibly employ him. Mark sent me the lovely note opposite to thank Sabona and the community for the support. We've since then received numerous phone calls and emails from others facing similar situations as a result of being made redundant. We do not have families and family friends and lifelong networks here to support us, so it is important that we as a Southern African community support ourselves. We need your support and we've set up a special website for that purpose: http://appeal.sabona.com.au/. Whether you can contribute financially, or whether you can offer assistance in other ways we would love to hear from you. Whatever you do, look after the men, they need support too.
Thanks again, I know that there is some way we can pay this all back, the other side of the coin is that we need to help others that face similar situations of desperation............. I am told that this is happening all too frequently, which is very alarming and concerning. Is there any way we can set up a network around Oz and of course other countries where expats are in the many, being able to talk to someone can make such a difference. Look at our chat that evening, you saved a life and a very bleak future for a family, then came the mass support, this is very powerful and it is only after sitting back and reflecting the past 24 months, then down to 72 hours and now the final wait. The bottom line is that with a support network, even the worst case scenarios are not so overwhelming when you know people are batting for you. I hope this makes sense. Thanks once again to everyone and especially you and Letitia, a big thanks to your family as well.
Cheers for now.