Mama Veronica’s story

Mama Veronica and her children have a renewed sense of purpose, thanks to the support from the Ubuntu Empowering Mothers project in Dandenong.

Originally from Kenya, Mama Veronica worked as a counsellor before moving with her family to Australia in 2007.  After settling in Melbourne, Mama Veronica gained qualifications in aged care, however she was unable to find work opportunities and places she could put her skills to use.

In 2019 she was introduced by a mutual friend to Selba-Gondoza Luka, Founder and CEO of Afri-Aus Care, who encouraged her to come to the Afri-Aus Centre in Dandenong. From there, through the Ubuntu Empowering Mothers project, a larger community has grown.

Since joining the project Mama Veronica has created a better life for herself, her children, and her community.

While volunteering at the centre Mama Veronica was also assisted to seek work, and as a result she successfully landed her first job in Australia as a Disability Worker, and Project Worker for the other mothers who visit the centre. In these roles she supports African-Australian mothers to find work and support for themselves and their families.

If I didn’t have a job I don’t know where I’d be.”

She is also a regular volunteer for Afri-Aus Care, facilitating programs within the organisation and cooking traditional African food for the staff, women, students and visitors who attend the centre.

 We sit down, we talk, we give each other hope and a sense of belonging.”

Mama Veronica has also been a key facilitator at the Empowering Mothers project community garden and worm farming, growing plants and vegetables which provides the women with fresh produce used to cook food for the Afri-Aus Care centre and those in need.

We plant a lot of things in that garden, and a lot of women help to grow the produce. It makes the women feel happy and reminds them of mother land Africa.”

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown Mama Veronica’s sons gained employment through the centre, and worked hard to deliver food and material aid to people in need throughout their community.

The kids become so happy coming to the centre. It teaches them to respect the people in their community.”

Her sons also take part in the Black Rhinos basketball program, which provides them with an enjoyable sporting experience and opportunities for integration and positive social experiences.

Her boys are happy having something to do, and Mama Veronica is proud to see them off the streets.

Keeping busy as a family has brought them closer, and building a community that cares for each other, supports each other and provides each other with hope is exactly what the Ubuntu Empowering Mothers project aims to achieve.

“When they see me working, my family became so happy. They say ‘we were worried about you, but now we wake up and see you working and happy’ and that makes them happy too.”

The project is grounded in the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which emphasises the importance of connections and strong relationships between individuals, families and communities and is often described by the statement ‘I am because we are’.

The Ubuntu Empowering Mothers Project helps build the capacity of African-Australian mothers to use Ubuntu to strengthen family, community and societal relationships and to support young people to live fulfilling lives.

The project is also being delivered in Melbourne’s west by The Australian-African Foundation for Retention and Opportunity (AAFRO). Both Afri-Aus Care and AAFRO work in partnership with the University of Melbourne, who are evaluating the program’s impact.

The Empowering Mothers project received $516,000 in funding from the Victorian Government, with project partners also contributing $204,000.

Veronica continues to play an active role in welcoming and supporting other women to the project, providing each other with opportunities for work, volunteering and personal support.

For Veronica, community means you’re not alone.

“Community is about helping and encouraging one another and helping to give our kids a positive start in life.”