Meet Sharafat Mir.
Sharafat is a typical young twenty-year-old man attempting to carve his path in this world. He is studying Biomedical Science at university, building relationships, working in hospitality to pay the bills, learning to manage his money. Along the way, he is gathering those experiences that help with life choices and decisions further down the track.
Under this seemingly regular exterior, however, is an extraordinary story of a young man forced to flee his country with his mother and sisters to a new land, and bear the responsibility of looking after them.
When Sharafat and his family arrived in Australia from Afghanistan, he was sixteen. He did not speak English and had to contend with caring for his sick mother and two younger sisters. His older brother was not able to make the trip with them to Australia, leaving young Sharafat as the man of the house.
Sharafat’s ability to care for his mother was made more difficult by the fact he was too young to drive, so relied on public transport to help her attend various weekly medical appointments at different hospitals and clinics. This began to take its toll.
“I was struggling to find time to complete my school work, continue working part-time and look after my Mum. The time consumed waiting for and travelling on public transport just didn’t allow me to fit everything in,” Sharafat explains.
Sharafat needed help. This is when he met Fleur Kenny, a Senior Coordinator at FSG Australia’s (FSG) Connections and Young Carer Program.
“Together we identified that not being able to travel independently was Sharafat’s greatest barrier to juggling his full day and caring for his mother. So we set about finding a solution. He needed to get his driver’s licence and work towards purchasing a family car.”
FSG partners with No Yelling Driving School to assist young carers like Sharafat obtain their licence. FSG funds the lessons and licence and works with the young person through the process to ensure they achieve their goals as quickly and safely as possible.
“No Yelling staff are different. They’re really progressive in the way they approach teaching their students. The company’s philosophy and values align with FSG’s in regards to inclusivity and regard for all members of our community,” says Fleur.
When students attend No Yelling driving lessons, they have the same instructor throughout their training. This is when Sharafat met Eddie Peerez, No Yelling Instructor. Surprisingly, it is not the first-time Eddie has worked with someone in Sharafat’s position.
“When young people like Sharafat are in that unique position of being a carer for someone they love, their reasons for achieving their licence are quite different to the majority of people their age. When I was going for my licence, I was thinking about taking my girlfriend out to dinner and hanging out with my mates. There are completely different levels of responsibility for someone like Sharafat and this needs to be taken into account when delivering the lessons,” explains Eddie.
Sharafat was extremely nervous as he didn’t want to waste the opportunity. “It was very stressful. I thought, what if I fail the test? I might not get the chance again.”
With FSG walking alongside Sharafat, coupled with No Yelling’s approach, his fears about not achieving his licence fears were quickly alleviated.
“We have brainstorming sessions every week about how best to deliver our teaching. Whether it’s modifying lessons for language barriers or disability, we try to think of all people and groups in our community to ensure we’re as ready as we can be for different people’s circumstances. For example, when there is a language barrier, we have blank note pads to draw an instruction in,” says Eddie.
FSG intentionally designs and creates opportunities that reflect the things a person says they need and want, walking alongside someone until those dreams have been realised.
“I wouldn’t have been able to work, study and look after Mum without the license. I would have eventually had to make a choice,” says Sharafat. “I’m so grateful to both FSG and No Yelling for giving me the opportunity and all their support along the way.”
Thanks to Bobby Rein Photography.