Interview has been translated from Spanish
Political unrest and violence in Venezuela forced Isneida and Roberto to flee their homeland in 2014. After uprooting family and making their way through a number of South American countries, five years later, they eventually made it to Australia on refugee status.
“Due to the situation in Venezuela, economically and lack of safety, we had to go to a small island in the Caribbean called Curacao,” Isneida said.
“We didn’t have any documents, so we applied for refugee status and finally got approval from Australia.
“Our life has changed a lot for the better. We feel safer here.”
Isneida, Roberto and their eight-year-old son came to Australia with a group of 47 refugees, as part of a Venezuelan settlement pilot project.
With support from AnglicareSA, they were greeted at the airport by a Spanish-speaking support worker, before being provided short-term accommodation in Adelaide.
Arriving in Australia with no English and close to nothing, Isneida and Roberto were as equally hopeful as they were nervous.
“The welcome was really important for us, because when we were flying here we were really scared,” Isneida said.
“We didn’t even know the language, the country or anything. We were scared because we really didn’t know about our future.
“As soon as we arrived, all these people began explaining things like government support and private rentals, and everything was organised. They took us to our new home and it was really good.
“We didn’t expect that.”
Against the odds, the couple were determined to build a strong future for their family and find ways to contribute to their newfound community in Adelaide’s western suburbs.
With Isneida a professional hairdresser, the couple started exploring how to open a salon from home.
“We were really proactive because we really want to have our own place to see how our life would be in the future.
“I started to look around and found an apartment – AnglicareSA did all the paperwork, talked to the agent and organised everything for us.
From a single second-hand chair and a handful of clients – Isneida and Roberto began generating a small income.
Word soon spread throughout the Latin American community and the couple saved enough money to move into a larger rental and upgrade their salon.
Today, Isneida Lopez Hair Care has around eight clients per day – many of which are migrants from Latin American countries.
“I like helping people transform their style and make them feel more comfortable with themselves,” Isneida said.
“It feels really good when they look in the mirror, jump around and give me a hug.”
After two years, the couple have well and truly settled in and are enjoying their new life in Adelaide.
Roberto said they’re now focused on giving back and help out others who have been through the same journey as themselves.
“We want to grow the business and we want to help other people with employment – we want to help other refugees when they come here so they know how to do all the work,” he said.
“One of the women who came with us [to Australia] in the group – she initially came here as a client but is now working with us after we learnt she’s a skilled nail technician.
“This is a land of opportunities and we are proof of that. So, we’ve been trying to inspire others to go and do it.
The couple still find it emotional to think about their journey and how their lives have changed for the better.
“Life was very hard – very complicated,” he said.
“What AnglicareSA did for us when we came to Australia, to find us a place and give us furniture – I almost cried when I got all these things.
“All the support from AnglicareSA is something I’ll never forget.”