As an asylum seeker, Abdul Razzaq is all too familiar with the mental anguish suffered by people fleeing persecution and seeking a safe place to live.
With limited (if any) working rights, the loss of family back home and the dark cloud of an uncertain future hanging over them, asylum seekers often feel socially isolated and disconnected.
But in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, Abdul is offering hope and happiness by building a community through cricket.
Don’t give up, give back
For Abdul, who fled Pakistan in 2013, things seemed bleak after his wife, Lubna suffered a serious illness soon after they arrived in Australia. Abdul, trying to cope with depression and anxiety, struggled as he watched his wife’s health deteriorate.
Despite the circumstances, he knew he couldn’t give up, so he decided to give back. “My wife was very sick, in hospital for over a month and on treatment for over a year. Luckily, she survived, but it was hard, and we could have given up. When I saw her smiling again, I decided I wanted to give back, especially to Monash Health who helped my wife so much. As a volunteer, I feel happy because I am paying back what I can. I have the time, so this is a good way to spend my time,” says Abdul.
As a volunteer, I feel happy because I am paying back what I can.
Through his volunteer work, Abdul discovered that the isolation and anxiety he was feeling wasn’t unique.
He saw many other refugees and asylum seekers going through similar anguish.
Remembering how he’d loved the comradery of playing cricket back home, he had the idea to start a cricket team. He discussed the idea with his Monash Health supervisor, Rob Koch, and together they decided to pursue their dream to help asylum seekers and refugees overcome anxiety through cricket.
All Nations Social Cricket
In 2014, with the support of Rob and the team from Monash Health as well as Dandenong Council and Cricket Victoria, Abdul started All Nations Social Cricket.
The team plays every weekend, training on Saturdays and playing matches on Sundays. In their first season, they played the Seeker Cup, a friendly competition between All Nations and another asylum seeker team from Melbourne’s north.
In a nail-biting finish, All Nations were victorious with a caught and bowled on the final ball. It was a glorious moment for Abdul and his team, “This was our World Cup. When we won, on the last ball, it gave us all so much more motivation. But we didn’t want the season to end in winter. We didn’t want to lose the people.”
Worried he would see stress and anxiety return for himself and his teammates, Abdul decided they should continue to train through winter.
And during these cold months, they saw more and more people join in preparation for the second season of All Nations Social Cricket.
This was our World Cup. When we won on the last ball, it gave us so much motivation.
From humble beginnings using second-hand equipment and a packet of cheap biscuits as snacks, All Nations has continued to grow.
In 2017 and 2018 they played matches against the Victoria Police cricket team.
And in January 2018, All Nations went national with a five-day tour of Tasmania for the Don’t Give Up Give Back tournament run in conjunction with the Tasmanian Intercultural Sports League.
There are plans for a bigger tournament in 2019 and a mega event in 2020, “We want to see the tournament grow in 2019 and in 2020 we want a mega-event here in Dandenong. We’d like to see teams from all over Australia, and even the world, join us,” says Abdul.
It’s not just cricket; it’s a cause.
These days, it’s not just cricket. There’s now a soccer team bringing more people into the community, and a Don’t Give Up, Give Back event planned for September to showcase the multicultural diversity of Dandenong where over 3,000 asylum seekers live.
“We really believe in our words. We’re still alive. We have food. We’re warm and not sleeping on the road. And for that, we want to give back, not give up. We want to thank our community and contribute to it,” says Abdul.
All Nations has provided the opportunity for socially isolated asylum seekers and refugees to thrive. Younger team members have a chance to take on responsibilities, like Shaber Ayobi, a young Afghani who is learning new skills as the team’s event manager.
The team also gives back by assisting needy people in the community with tasks such as lifting heavy furniture, tidying up gardens and minor household repairs.
We want to give back, not give up. We want to thank our community and contribute to it.
While the team was started to connect asylum seekers and refugees, they welcome people from all backgrounds, all religions and all nationalities.
It’s a vibrant and friendly community that asks its members to do only one thing: don’t give up, give back.
From victim to victor
As a newly arrived asylum seeker, having lost his father and faced with the prospect of losing his wife, Abdul Razzaq could have fallen into the depths of despair. Instead, he chose to give back to the community that helped him and his beloved wife, Lubna.
Through his volunteer work with All Nations Social Cricket, Abdul was shortlisted for the 2017 Australian Migration and Settlement Awards. For this, Abdul and Lubna were flown to Canberra to shake the hand of the Prime Minister of Australia.
The story of All Nations Social Cricket is a story of humanity. A story of people coming together, united in sport, community and friendship.
Don’t give up, give back. Five simple words that drive people like Abdul and Lubna and the entire All Nations team to dedicate so much of themselves to their community.
“It gives us more motivation. If we give up, we can be a victim of anything. If we give back, we are strong and we contribute,” says Abdul.
Image credit: All Nations Social Cricket.
About the Author
Joh Kohler is a writer who creates compelling content and copy for small businesses, big brands and government agencies. When she’s not writing, you can find her chasing after her two fun-loving preschoolers or hanging out with her husband, a proud immigrant business owner. You can follow Joh on Facebook at Compelling Copy.