Meet Rob Koch, Coordinator of Community Development and Volunteer Services at Monash Health.
What is your role at Monash Health and what does it entail?
I get to work with vulnerable yet resilient people who have fled their country due to persecution and war, and are trying to start a new life in our community. As ‘Refugee Health Community Development Coordinator’, I work internally and externally to address their ‘social determinants of health’.
If refugees and asylum seekers are socially isolated, or have no income or employment or have nowhere to live and little to eat it will affect their health and wellbeing. So it’s about developing and promoting initiatives that address those determinants so they can ‘move from surviving to thriving’ – the motto of our service.
What does an average day at work for the Community Development and Volunteer services team look like?
Lots of meetings, administrating, coordinating and emailing! I represent Monash Health on the Executive of a regional taskforce attempting to reduce destitution of asylum seekers who have no income. Some of those are among our 70 talented, dedicated and inspirational people volunteering at Monash Health Community in Thomas Street Dandenong.
Most are from a refugee background, earnestly giving back to the community while developing workplace skills, experience and confidence. My day is complete when I have been able to getting alongside just one them to encourage, empower and equip them, but also to learn from them. They have enriched my life in so many ways!
What has your journey been like at Monash Health?
I started just two days a week back in 2010 in the Child and Family team as the Men’s Health and Parenting Educator. I had been doing this role for the City of Casey and in my own men’s work consulting business, creating and conducting parenting courses for Dads, events for dads and kids together, and father-inclusive practice workshops. But I started getting referrals from colleagues concerned about fathers seeking asylum after reluctantly leaving their families behind to hopefully one day bring them to safety here. Their grief was heartbreaking so my focus shifted to them. Like many transitions in life and work, the change was unexpected but I viewed it as an opportunity to be embraced.
For these last six or so years I can honestly say I learn something new every day, but I have so much more to learn about other cultures. It’s so good to be in a team of dedicated and compassionate professionals who have also taught me so much.
What is one of the biggest challenges your team faces?
Our volunteer team: overcoming all the obstacles and barriers to getting established and employed.
Our Refugee Health team: In my opinion – working within our limitations to improve the mental health of people seeking asylum who live in limbo, hoping and waiting for permanent residency.
What are your team’s goals for 2019
Our Refugee Health team: Again, my opinion but I think we would all like to grow in our capacity to deliver health care to the increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers coming our way. Don’t be alarmed – it’s still just a comparative trickle in a stage of history the United Nations is calling “the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War 2”.
Our volunteer team: Creating more pathways to employment and finding actual paid jobs at the end of the pathway!
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Seeing our most dedicated and talented volunteers getting a job. So far we have seen 21 volunteers employed in Monash Health alone, with most of the 130 others who have graduated from the volunteer program move into employment or tertiary study.
All of them look back to this foundational time with appreciation and gratitude at the warm welcome and support they have received from management, staff and patients. Some even have returned as volunteers to give back and to experience more of this amazing community and harmony.
Anything else you want to add?
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it inspires you to keep an open heart toward to those who have come across the seas, and to make room at your table for one more.