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Refugees learn to surf as Christians take them to the beach

Thursday 29th January 2015

For many, it will be the first time they’ve braved the waves. That is, other than when they took a harrowing journey by boat from Indonesia to Australia to seek asylum.

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On Saturday, around 30 recently arrived refugees from places like Syria and Iraq will spend the day at Seven Mile Beach on the NSW south coast.

Invited by people at the Uniting Church at Gerringong, Welcome to Australia and Christian Surfers, the refugees will be offered the chance to learn to surf and enjoy a BBQ lunch.

“Surfers for Refugees” was an idea which began at Gerringong Uniting Church, but with most new arrivals settling in Wollongong not Gerroa, they needed to get Welcome to Australia’s Wollongong branch involved.

Christian Surfers, a group which describes itself as a “Christian presence and witness in the Aussie surf community” also got involved and will provide the insurance, surf lessons, equipment and safety talks on the weekend.

Clara Saadi is Branch Director of Welcome to Australia, a refugee advocacy and support group, and thought it was a great idea, not just to see refugees learn to surf, but to help them feel like they’re welcome at the beach.

“Some of them don’t swim or haven’t actually even been to the water, so it’s more about breaking down the fear around the ocean and helping them not to feel like it’s only white Australians that go to the beach, or that they’re not welcome.”

This Saturday is being viewed by Welcome to Australia as a test run for what could be a movement of refugees being invited to beach days across the country.

“We’ve had Bondi Rescue take interest in this idea, as well as World Vision, so we just want to see how it goes.

“This Saturday will be the first time we do it. It’s like the pilot to see what happens and then from there we’ll refine it and turn it into something everyone can do.”

She says there’s been interest expressed among Christians in Perth, Newcastle and Sydney who are keen to replicate the day at a local beach.

But if you don’t want to wait until there’s an official program, Clara says next time you go to the beach, why not invite someone new to Australia along?

“If you go down to the beach, take someone with you, let them have a good time, show them the beauty of our country and help them feel welcome, loved and accepted. It’s what Jesus would do.”

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