Youth worker recognised for 'outstanding contribution'

Mani Sidara with the Governor-Generals Medallion.
Mani Sidara with the Governor-Generals Medallion.

When COVID-19 restrictions and health orders were rapidly changing in south-west Sydney, a Fairfield youth health worker took it upon herself to ensure the local Lao community were kept updated.

Mani Sidara, who works as part of the Fairfield Liverpool Youth Health Team, volunteered her time after hours and on weekends to make YouTube clips of the updated COVID-19 regulations and used her Facebook page to promote vaccinations to the Lao and Thai communities in her native Lao language.

Governor-General David Hurley recognised her "outstanding contribution" recently with the Governor-General's Medallion.

"Your selfless actions exemplify the richness of spirit that exists in our communities," he wrote in his correspondence letter.

"You played an important part helping many in our community better understand how they could stay safe during the pandemic."

For Ms Sidara, who lives in Moorebank, she felt it was her civic duty to provide support, guidance and reassurance to the Lao community.

"People struggled to keep up with the rules at the beginning because it was all in English. There was an urgent need to fill this gap and provide information in the Lao language," she said.

"Initially, the information kept changing almost every day. As a result of these rapid changes to the regulations, our friends, family and community members began to feel uncertain, just like everyone else in our community.

"So that's why I jumped on to social media, like Facebook and YouTube to make clips and spread the word. Lao people could receive the news in their own language quickly. There is better communication through social media. Information that is new to everyone spreads faster on social media.

"I know how hard it is when you come here with a language barrier and have to learn to adapt to the new culture."

Ms Sidara, who came to in Australia from Laos in 1990, said initially members of the Lao community were "hesitant" to get the COVID-19 vaccination.

"People were not sure about where to go to get the jab. By making the clip, I was able to answer our community people's questions, instead of answering them individually," she said.

"I made the clip and then shared it with them. They could then share it with their friends and family members. This helped to reassure them and provided accurate information and time for them to absorb the information.

"People get their news and information from lots of different sources and for some people, the 6pm news or the 11am press conference are not useful. I have shown that my efforts have helped to inform people in a way that is meaningful to them. Often, people are more willing to listen to someone they know and trust and can understand than to listen to news bulletins."

When asked how it felt to receive the Governor-General's Medallion, she said: "I strongly feel that these appreciations for my team's hard work belong to every one in the community, including mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers and especially my partner, who worked hard behind the scene and who gave me the encouragement to continue working endlessly for the benefit of our community."

She also thanked her social media followers for making her work "totally successful".

This story Youth worker recognised for 'outstanding contribution' first appeared on Fairfield City Champion.