CALD NDIS Coffs Harbour
For Coffs Harbour local, Sahar Abdelrahman, her job as an NDIS Support Coordinator is personal. Born and raised in Egypt, Sahar and her son came to Australia in 2012 as humanitarian refugees. This has given her a unique insight into her work with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities.

Sahar works at CHESS Connect as an NDIS Support Coordinator. She helps NDIS participants from both English and CALD backgrounds understand their NDIS plan and connect with services and supports in their local area.

“My first client was a young teenager who was non-verbal and living with significant intellectual disability” she explains. “His parents and family had just arrived in the area as refugees and had very little English. They had lost another child who had similar disabilities and were trying to get their son medical help. It was difficult for them to navigate the health care system and understand what kind of supports were available to them. They were reserved and didn’t know they had choices and could be a voice for their son.”

Sahar was able to work with the family to communicate and connect to medical support at the hospital, including OT’s, therapists and support workers as well as access to a wheelchair and other mobility equipment.

The family and their son have since moved out of the Coffs Harbour area to a new home in Australia, but still stay in touch with Sahar, keeping her up to date on their journey.

When Sahar herself arrived in Coffs Harbour she experienced first-hand the challenges some of her customers faced, when coming to a new country. Living in a neighbourhood with no Arabic speakers and only basic English, she took every opportunity she could to improve her language skills.

“My neighbours at the time were amazing” she says. “I was fascinated by the support they gave me, without thought of asking for anything in return. They were Australian and would often invite us to the traditional back yard BBQ. I would sit amongst them with my English textbook and listen to them speak, picking up words and practicing my pronunciation through conversation.”

Sahar soon began to give back, volunteering to help other refugees through translation and support to access services when they first arrived in Coffs Harbour.

“I saw an opportunity to pursue my interests as well as help others like me.”

When a position at local not for profit CHESS Connect became available, Sahar jumped at the chance.

“Helping people in the CALD community realise their capacity for their own self-determination and advocacy has brought me full-circle” says Sahar. “Giving other refugees a voice and showing them that they can thrive with the right supports and connections is what gives me purpose in my work.”

“Having someone have that belief in you is very powerful.”


Do you need help understanding your NDIS plan and connecting with supports? CHESS Connect are experienced registered NDIS service providers with a deep understanding goal orientated disability support. Specialising in Support Coordination, School Leaver Employment, Respite and Social & Community support, we work with NDIS participants to get the most out of their plan. Enquire today:

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