Edwin Akwu

A chance to participate in a Refugee Week celebration in July has given a socially isolated engineer the confidence to engage with the community and prove once more that people with disability can be an asset to our society.

The Refugee Week event, hosted by the Lower North Shore Multicultural Network, led by NSP partner organisation Sydney Multicultural Community Services (Sydney MCS), saw renowned speakers such as Renata Kaldor talk about the refugee and migrant journey towards belonging.

Another speaker was Edwin Akwu, an African engineer who a few years ago experienced medical issues resulting in the amputation of his legs and hands.

Event organisers reached out to Mr Akwu through the Ability Links program in order to add to the narrative of diversity and to have a person with a disability engage with the community in a non-disability focused event.

Only months earlier, Mr Akwu was socially isolated and did not feel like he had the confidence to engage with the community.

Noel Zihabamwe, Sydney MCS community development worker and the lead organiser of the event, said, “People with disability make up one in five of us in Australia so it is important that this is reflected in our events and programs.”

By August, Mr Akwu’s confidence had grown to the point where he featured as a speaker at the Cultural Shift conference, addressing over 300 people and talking about his disability as an added layer of diversity.

In his speech Mr Akwu said, “I am a person, an engineer with a number of abilities and can be an asset to our society.”

Now Mr Akwu has started mentoring young engineering students in his community.

By acknowledging, engaging and supporting Mr Akwu to present at the refugee week event, Sydney MCS not only opened the door for Edwin to be part a larger stage that was the Cultural Shift conference, but it also took a leadership role towards promoting the importance and the benefits of engaging people with disability in the multicultural communities in which they work.

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