MEET THAT GIRL: PRUDENCE MELOM
Every year, millions of people are forced to flee their homes to seek asylum. E-Raced is an Australian based not-for-profit organisation that works with young migrants to share their stories with the community to help create an inclusive Australia, free from racism.
We were thrilled to sit down with Prudence Melom, the founder of E-Raced to listen to her story of her journey to Australia from the Republic of Chad (a landlocked country in north-central Africa), discuss the challenges of running a not-for-profit and her advice to young woman.
What can you tell us about your experience growing up in Chad?
Growing up in Chad was wonderful because I was raised by two incredible and hard-working parents. My Father worked for the local government and Mum was a businesswoman. I remember being such a spoilt little girl, loved by so many and had everything I wanted and needed as a child.
Sadly, the year 1999 at four years old my perfect life turned into a nightmare when my father spoke against corruption in the government.
As a result, our lives were in danger. My father was shot and taken from us one early morning and my pregnant Mum was now a single mother of three young children at the age of 21. Fearful for our lives my mother decided that Chad was no longer our place to call home. We fled Chad and seeked refuge in Benin refugee camp for seven years before being accepted to migrate to Australia in 2007.
In a nutshell, what is E-Raced and what is its objective?
E-Raced is a non-for-profit organisation that focuses on storytelling. We train young migrants and refugees to share their stories with school students and their broader communities to help create an inclusive Australia free from racism.
What we do differently is that we humanise refugees and migrants by bringing face-to-face interactions among young people. We work with schools to deliver high quality 60-minute programs where young refugees and new migrants share their stories with fellow young Australians.
Why do you believe stories are so important to share?
I believe that stories are so important because it empowers different people to connect and creates mutual understanding. Stories educate, bring awareness and removes the fear of the unknown. There’s something powerful about allowing someone to hear your story, join you on that journey to safety and inspire the wider communities to think and act differently.
What’s the main misconception you feel exists towards refugees in Australia?
Unfortunately, refugees in Australia have been demonised by many and portrayed as the “bad guys” - forgetting that most of us are descendants of people that who were forced to come here or migrated to seek a better life.
The main misconception I feel exists towards refugees is that we get special treatments, free houses, cars, travel on business class when coming to Australia & that we are violent and terrorists.
We don’t get special treatments; we work hard to afford all the things we have. When paying taxes, refugees don’t get a discount, and this applies to everything else.
No one is perfect so yes, we have our flaws. You’ll find those that have gone off track in our communities like any other. Prejudice is ignorance.
Running a not-for-profit isn’t an easy task, what keeps you motivated?
Running a not-for-profit has been very tough, I’ve had my fair share of failures and success. The young people who support my vision and share their stories keeps me motivated. At this point its not about me anymore, it’s about all of us. We are like one big family.
Have any particular stories resonated with you the most throughout your learnings and teachings?
All these young people who are part of E-Raced have incredible stories that resonate with me every single day. Choosing one is so hard, but I can’t help but think about one incredible young boy from Rwanda called Pascal.
At just 14 years old both his parents were killed and he was left to look after his two sisters. Sadly, one of his sisters also passed away while seeking protection. Now it was just him and his younger sister. After all the tribulations and years of suffering, Pascal and his younger sister got accepted to come to Australia. He is now studying at university and determined to succeed.
Pascal’s story inspires me because I can’t imagine making it out of Chad at such a young age without my parents. I thank God for what I have every day.
You’ve accomplished so much for someone your age, including the 2018 Toowoomba Young Citizen of the Year award and the 2018 Queensland Young Achievers award - congrats! What’s your advice for young women of this country?
My advice for young women is that everything is possible. Be authentic, be yourself, be different. You have so much to give and contribute to this country. Our voices are needed. Always surround yourself with good vibes and never let anyone make you feel less important because of your religion, gender, background or the colour of your skin. Be ready to fail, pick yourself up and keep going.
If someone like me can do it, so can you babe!
What does “Be That Girl” mean to you?
To me “Be that girl” means being uniquely powerful. Be that boss, be that lawyer, dancer, be whoever you want to be. I think it’s important to empower women to reach their full potential.
What’s next for Prudence Melom?
Complete my degree and graduate with a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Southern Queensland. Work my way to becoming the secretary of the United Nations or perhaps the next Prime Minister of Australia. Haha you never know.