As Shams Uddim serves the people of Newcastle from behind the counter of his kebab shop, he feels lucky to be living in Australia. In 2015 he and his then small family made the journey to our country to escape war in Afghanistan.
“[We left] because the situation in Afghanistan is not good, you could see that every day was going to be bad,” he said.
“Australia is a good place to live, and we came here to save our lives.”
Fast forward to 2022 and Shams, his wife Aziza and their five children, ranging in ages from four to 16, love where they live.
“We first arrived in Newcastle and didn’t move – we love the city,” Shams said.
“[But] I have been to Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane and they are all lovely places, it is a lovely country.”
While it was overwhelming for the family when they first arrived, Shams says CatholicCare Hunter Manning’s Refugee Hub was a saving grace. Learning English wasn’t too difficult but settling into a new city came with some challenges.
“For me it wasn’t too hard because I studied English at school in Afghanistan,” Shams said.
“[But] it can still be really hard though, it’s a different life and different language.”
The hub provided the family with support as they settled in, he says it “helped a lot”.
CatholicCare’s programs helped them to find their feet and gain the confidence they needed to become a part of the local community. Since arriving in Australia, the family has opened a business on Beaumont Street in Hamilton. Shams Kebab House offers delicious Afghan Kebabs in one of Newcastle’s busiest food precincts.
“This shop was opened in December 2020,” Shams said.
“I am feeling good [about it], I am very happy to have this shop and my own business.”
While trade is a little slow at the moment because of the colder weather, Shams is looking forward to a busy summer period. He is proud that he is now in a position to serve CatholicCare’s Refugee Hub – after he was engaged to provide catering at their recent Harmony Day morning tea and for a garden working bee.
“I wish to help them,” he said.