Light in the dark

Enactus Macquarie University is shining a light on stigmas to create a supportive community for all

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Enactus is a global non-profit organisation which uses entrepreneurial action to empower individuals to improve their livelihoods. Through implementing various sustainable projects, namely, PeerLink, and the Women’s Creative Hub, Enactus Macquarie University has been instrumental in implementing social change.

Enactus Macquarie University.Indian Link
Left to right: Lisbeth Wong, Salonika Mitter, Kush Sood, Niyati Roy and Beheshta Wasseh

This student-run organisation is transforming the lives of university students and asylum seekers and refugees for the better, bringing to light issues that are ignored. In the words of 2016-17 team President Kush Sood, “Enactus Macquarie enriches, encourages, and empowers individuals from all walks of life.”

Enactus is present in 36 countries around the world, and every year, all Enactus teams come together for a National Conference and Competition, with each team presenting on the progress and impact of their projects. For the very first time, Enactus Macquarie was successful in placing as finalists in the top 4 out of 15 Australian universities. I had the privilege of being a speaker, along with Salonika Mitter, Niyati Roy, and Lisbeth Wong as we presented on the aforementioned projects. You can view our presentation here. It was insightful to listen to other universities present their projects and to hear about the impact they are having in society.

Congratulations to Enactus University of Sydney who won this year’s national competition. They will represent Australia in the Enactus World Cup in London this September.

PeerLink

Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan has stated that when it comes to mental health, students are a group that “can fall through the cracks.” With over 250,000 university students in Sydney alone, Enactus Macquarie is shining a light on, and destigmatising, student mental health.

Enactus Macquarie University.Indian Link
Enactus Macquarie University

PeerLink is a student outreach program which seeks to defeat the stigma surrounding mental health. University students help each other through a supporter and supportee format. Supporters are psychology students who are passionate about assisting fellow students achieve better health. Supportees are university students who experience symptoms of mental distress. The level playing field allows for the comfortable discussion of mental health in an unintimidating environment.

The project comprises both individual and group sessions, providing multiple opportunities for participants to talk about their mental health. Whilst weekly individual sessions personalise the program for supportees, weekly group sessions create reliable support networks through team-building and peer relaxation exercises.

Enactus Macquarie’s initiative also aims to assist Campus Wellbeing, the on-campus student welfare service, by increasing student engagement in their services. PeerLink provides Macquarie University students with a stepping stone to access professional counselling and disability services. Whilst supporters are not qualified to provide a diagnosis, they will refer supportees to Campus Wellbeing if they are in need of professional counselling.

Keep up to date with this mental health initiative by following their Facebook page.

Women’s Creative Hub – Auburn

In March this year, Enactus Macquarie became involved with the Women’s Creative Hub, an initiative started by House of Welcome in 2015. Australian and migrant women from diverse backgrounds, such as India, Sudan, and Sri Lanka come together every Thursday to create a range of items, ranging from jewellery and cushion covers, to scarves and bags.

Enactus Macquarie University.Indian Link
Handmade earrings

Refugee and asylum seeker women are invited to come along to teach and learn new textile skills, transforming recycled material into handmade products. Seeing as their previous qualifications and work experience are not recognised in Australia, Enactus Macquarie helps these women gain employable skills. It helps the Hub with its business model, generating strong marketing strategies to sell products, transferring the necessary soft skills, and ultimately providing an income stream for the women.

The Hub has recently introduced a Design Lab from 1 August 2017. The program will be led by skilled refugee craftswomen, teaching participants craft skills such as beading, crochet, knitting and designing new products.

Enactus Macquarie University.Indian Link
Participants at the Women’s Creative Hub – Auburn

As well as textiles, Enactus Macquarie’s online marketing of the Hub also showcases the culinary skills of the women involved. The Women’s Creative Kitchen is a new program that commenced on August 1, allowing participants to come together to share skills and learn to cook street food from Sri Lanka, Sudan, Egypt, Bangladesh and beyond!

Further information about their workshops can be found on the Women’s Creative Hub – Auburn Facebook page. All programs and classes are held at Auburn Centre for Community.

Suma Pillai, House of Welcome Facilitator, is extremely pleased with the effort. “Enactus Macquarie has brought tremendous marketing and technological prowess to support the Hub. (The) group has taken entrepreneurial action to give voice and presence to asylum seekers and refugee women and sought more income generating opportunities for them,” she says.

Enactus Macquarie University.Indian Link
Cushion covers

This can especially be seen through their organisation of exhibitions at Macquarie University and Gosford which not only expanded the Hub’s presence in other locations, but also increased community awareness about the plight of refugees and asylum seekers.

Enactus Macquarie has successfully shone a light on the asylum seeker and refugee debate by increasing community involvement and social cohesion. The Hub participants have shown greater confidence and have developed their communication skills as they increasingly engage in open conversation.

UN Millennium Development Goals

Enactus Macquarie is committed to fulfilling the UN Millennium Development Goals. Whilst PeerLink addresses good health and wellbeing at all ages, the Women’s Creative Hub calls for decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities and responsible consumption and production.

Utilising entrepreneurial action is at the heart of Enactus Macquarie’s operations. By creating meaningful change, they create a better world for all. To get involved with this active organisation, follow their Facebook and Instagram pages for regular updates on their projects.

W: https://www.enactusmq.org/