When Asan’s parents were killed in a war waging in his country of birth, he joined the growing ranks of other war orphans searching for a place to call home. Like many others, he ended up on his own in a refugee camp. Eventually, Asan arrived in Australia as an asylum seeker and endured another long wait to be placed in out-of-home care. When that didn’t happen, he ended up homeless and living rough in Melbourne. When he was referred to Lighthouse by another agency in 2014, he was 17 and carrying an extremely large suitcase.
Asan had been living in our Bonbeach home for about a week when his carers noted the impeccable way he made his bed each day, carefully placing the cushions in their original positions, without a wrinkle in the bedding. The truth eventually came out: he had been sleeping on the floor. “This floor, this warm carpet, this room that has a door I can close ... is all I need,” Asan told the carers. “This is the best I have ever known. You can put another person in that bed.”
It took many hours of counselling to help him understand that he was worthy of sleeping in the bed – and worthy of making the best of his true potential. The large suitcase, which Asan had apparently found abandoned just before entering the home, also proved to be nothing more than a container for the usual small plastic bag of possessions.
Over time, he developed a close and trusting relationship with the full-time male carer in the home. One of Asan’s ongoing issues was dealing with anxiety. He also had to overcome severe insomnia and frequently woke in panic, covered with sweat. The traumas of his past needed to be worked through with the help of the experienced team at Lighthouse.
During the 18 months he lived with us, Asan found somewhere he could heal, pursue an education, and think about his future career. He made friendships, improved his English, and found mentors within the Lighthouse community. Over time, his brilliant smile and his natural, sunny personality began to emerge. His English improved rapidly and he loved to chat. He taught the carers and his housemates how to cook dishes from his homeland and led several fishing trips to the nearby river.
One of Lighthouse’s corporate supporters offered him an apprenticeship in an auto workshop, which he enthusiastically accepted. Unfortunately, he only lasted one month in the position. He began to be late to work, was tired and lethargic, and found the technical systems difficult to manage. Asan felt that he had let everybody down and fell into a depression. After more counselling from his care team, he agreed to enrol in a professional barista course at TAFE. He excelled in the course and its practical work experience placements. As a chatty ‘people person’, he was ideally suited to working in hospitality and customer service, rather than being in a technical workshop. Once a qualified barista, Asan found work in a café and grew in confidence to the point where he successfully transitioned to independent living.
Asan’s uncle, one of his few living relatives, immigrated to Australia and established himself in Sydney. Asan moved there to live with him and soon found a permanent full-time job in a café. He still keeps in touch with his old household at our Bonbeach house and has regular phone catchups with the Lighthouse outreach team. During some of his early outreach conversations he shared his dreams about one day running his own business with a coffee cart or café. We are delighted to report that Asan’s latest news is that he has just launched his own small hospitality business.