From Sudan to Australia, war to safety

Ojwanga Abalo arrived in Australia three years ago from Sudan, via Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya managed by a Lutheran team for the UN. Ojwanga has joined St Paul’s Lutheran congregation in Shepparton. Nearly 50 former refugees worship here and the little church can no longer fit the congregation. Ojwanga’s daughter Laa translates the family’s story …

“Life in Sudan was hard. There was fighting, and in the air bombs were being thrown. When there was war we had to stay in holes. At this time my child was small, and I was pregnant.

At four in the afternoon the people were shooting bombs up from the sky and killed a lot of people. Then my husband say we must run away to Kenya. This was 1999.

When the bombs were coming, I knew God was right next to me, and I keep on praying. God answered my prayers, and take me out of this place to where it is safe…

When we first came to Australia, I did not feel worried I just knew we would be safe. The people were friendly. The Government here they help us by bringing us here and give us a good future, and we settle. Now we have good food and school…

I come to this Lutheran Church because here I feel I just fit in. In the Catholic Church we did not know that many people. But here we do, and they teach us a lot of things about God.”

The Lutheran Church and its members have long been part of welcoming refugees into Australia and New Zealand.

Read more here about how you can 'Welcome the Stranger'!

Action Idea:
At Dadaab Refugee Camp, on the Kenyan border with Somalia, more than 350,000 refugees have found welcome and safety. You can help provide bed sheets for the elderly and people with disabilities at the Camp to protect them from the cold, and from crawling insects like spiders and scorpions. 
Bed Sheet Set - $22

Where: Australia

What: Refugee resettlement

Who: Refugees arriving in Australia 

Our Contribution: $35,000

Australian Lutheran World Service is the "overseas aid & resettlement agency of the Lutheran Church of Australia". The resettlement component of our work relates to the support we provide to refugees and others 'at risk' who have come to our country under the Australian government's Humanitarian Migration Program. The primary means of assistance is the provision of loans through two revolving loan funds that have operated for well over 20 years. The purposes for which the loans are given can be broken down into three categories:

1.   Helping refugees & displaced settle into Australia

Many people come here with very little & it is difficult for them to even buy the basics necessary to set up a new home & meet essential expenditures.


  • Applicants must have been in Australia less than two years, and entered Australia under the government's Humanitarian Migration Program.
  • The maximum loan amount is $800, although support above this amount will be considered in exceptional circumstances.
  • The loan purpose is generally limited to the purchase of household items (eg beds, fridge). Requests for assistance to meet education and medical expenses will be considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the extent of need.
  • Loans are repaid over 20 months at $40 per month. These terms are negotiable, based on the applicant's financial situation.

2.   Helping reunite families

The Australian government, under its Humanitarian Program, offers visas to people who aren't refugees but have been found to be in a refugee-like situation. In order for them to qualify for a visa they must have a sponsor in Australia and, if they obtain a visa, they or their sponsors have to pay for the airfares and other costs associated with travelling to Australia.

In many cases the sponsor in Australia simply can't afford to meet these travel costs, which are often quite high. ALWS provides loans to assist sponsors meet the costs of these airfares and thereby enable families to be reunited again here in Australia. ALWS works in cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration, which is an agency that specialises in migration and travel assistance for refugees.


  • The individuals travelling to Australia have obtained visas under Australia's Humanitarian Migration Program.
  • Applicants can only apply for support where the individuals travelling to Australia are close family relatives. In view of complex social systems this may require flexibility, but generally extends only as far as aunts, uncles and cousins.
  • Travel must be organised through the International Organisation for Migration.
  • The maximum loan amount is $3,000 although support over this amount will be considered in exceptional circumstances.
  • Loans are repaid over 30 months at $100 per month. These terms are negotiable, based on the applicant's financial situation.

3.   Getting established in Australia

There are many refugees who struggle to establish a livelihood in Australia, despite having skills & ability to make a contribution to their new country. One of the major stumbling blocks is access to capital (funds) that will enable them to establish a small business.

ALWS manages a loan scheme that makes loans of up to $6,000 available for business purposes to entrants under the Humanitarian Program. ALWS has been able to assist in the establishment of many enterprises ranging from coffee shops and hairdressing salons to courier businesses and graphic design outfits.


  • Maximum loan amount of $6,000
  • Maximum loan term of 5 years
  • The loan must be for business-related purposes
  • The applicant must have come to Australia within the last eight years under the Australian government's Humanitarian Migration Program
  • A loan application will generally not be considered if the applicant is already employed
  • A loan application will generally only be considered where the applicant has been unable to secure funding from a bank or other 'mainstream' financial institution
  • An application form must be completed (and approval processes are more demanding than for other loans - especially in regard to demonstration of capacity to service the loan).

Fund Capital

ALWS relies on loan repayments to replenish the loan funds and enable us to continue advancing loans to other people. However, because of the difficult circumstances of the people we are seeking to serve - even with the best of intentions - full repayment is not always possible. This inevitably means the loan capital diminishes over time and reduces our capacity to assist in a timely manner. For this reason additional contributions to the resettlement loan fund (for airfares and household-related loans) are always welcome and enable us to continue this special form of ministry to a particularly vulnerable group in our country.

Gifts can be forwarded to ALWS marked "Capital Contribution - ALWS Resettlement Fund" (for the airfare & small loans purposes)

Postal Address: PO Box 488 Albury NSW 2640 or call 1300 763 407 for more information.


All applicants must complete a loan application form and submit it to ALWS for consideration. Please contact the ALWS office on 02 6021 5329 if you wish to apply for a loan.

Donate to help refugees in Australia

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