RMIT public relations students have helped welcome refugees and asylum seekers in a work integrated learning project.
Arriving in Australia with little money and limited ability to work, refugees are often left with few possessions to start a new life.
West Welcome Wagon is a grassroots not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers in Melbourne’s western suburbs providing much needed goods such as furniture, household goods, clothes, food and much more to newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers.
In the final semester of their Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations), students had the opportunity to work with the West Welcome Wagon to give them a practical workplace experience designed to integrate their academic learning.
The students were asked to identify ways the organisation could attract and retain volunteers. The students took a hands-on approach to developing the campaign, working alongside volunteers to pack hampers and delivering goods to refugees' homes to truly understand the organisation.
Student Rosemary Metcalfe said that the experience was very rewarding and allowed students to use their public relations knowledge to give back to the wider community.
“Over the last semester, I had the fantastic opportunity to work with West Welcome Wagon, a not-for-profit organisation that provides support to asylum seekers living in Melbourne's west.” Metcalfe said.
Founded in 2013, West Welcome Wagon has grown rapidly to include over 5000 members in their online community in just two short years.
Justin Rogers from the School of Media and Communication, who lectures in the Public Relations program said the client was impressed with the length RMIT students went to understand their organisation.
“Volunteering and delivering goods to refugees provided students with valuable insights to deliver a communication solution that will make a real difference to this organisation.”
“As students have managed the client relationship and the delivery of a project, their confidence has grown. This project has given them valuable experience and allowed them to develop skills which they can draw on as they enter the workforce,” said Rogers.
A series of videos was created by the students about the organisation with information on how to get involved and advice on avoiding volunteer burnout, a common problem for many small not-for-profit organisations.
The students also developed partnership guidelines for the organisation, advising West Welcome Wagon how to develop relationships with businesses and corporate donors ensuring the organisation can grow and help even more refugees and asylum seekers.
Story: Justin Rogers/Wendy Little