Women Kind Launch
Founder of thriving Community Support Services in Bankstown, Mona Mohamed is joining Women Kind co-founder Catherine Fox to talk about the impact of CSS at Sydney Community Foundation in Paddington on 28 November 2019 – come along and join the giving circle to support her work and the impact it is having on Sydney women and girls. Details and invitations coming soon.
Mona Mahamed: Heart of a community
Laying carpet tiles is a skill that commerce graduate, teacher and community activist Mona Mahamed never thought she’d need.
But she’s been on a steep learning curve over the last year or so. And she’s done lots of messy, back breaking tiling, driven a large truck and reversed a trailer for the first time, and negotiated to set up a thriving community centre in the heart of Bankstown.
Not bad for a woman who has her own personal challenges and a family of eight. But connecting with others in need is a passion of hers – and she’s good at it.
It’s a key reason, along with her own experience and struggles, Mona established Community Support Services for others grappling with isolation, parenting, studying, getting a job or simply making ends meet.
A former high school teacher with a diploma in IT, Mona began to get involved with support networks through a What’sApp group which focused on educational help.
“We were a group of facilitators and worked with students who were struggling and met in libraries,” she explains.
But then she started dreaming big. And she met Pat Hall, the CEO of Liverpool Neighbourhood Connections in western Sydney.
“That was the catalyst to do something. Pat said she could see me going places and it made me believe more in myself. The impact of women supporting women is powerful,” she says. The Global Sisters network also provided invaluable support, inspiration and profile for Mona.
Once she got moving with her plans for a community hub the project came together quickly. In early 2018 Mona formally set up CSS which started operating from the first floor of a building next to Bankstown station in October 2018.
Aside from a safe place to hang out, the main focus is offering a range of skills and workshops in specially kitted out rooms. Anyone can pop in, from migrants to students, and they do. As Global Sisters point out on their website Mona has set up “a one stop shop for the community of Canterbury/Bankstown” and includes The Village radio program, named to reflect the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.
The results of this village ethos have been uplifting, to say the least. Not long ago advice from a specialist at a pathway to university workshop helped get an 18 year-old into university after he had spent a year at home losing confidence.
Or there’s the buzz from the sewing and design classes including women from Afghanistan, Syria and Vietnam using a bank of machines Mona collected over ten years (including an old treadle Singer machine which still works beautifully).
There are English classes for migrants and drop in facilities for school kids, and a room full of books and toys for children. More than 30 volunteers help Mona, and those who can afford it pay for the workshops they attend.
But of course the sustainability of CSS depends on more help and sponsorship – with the rent, new sewing machines, donations of computers and other sponsorship from businesses for her food hampers at the Village Pantry.
“Ten years ago if you came and asked me about community work I had no idea. What I’m doing is through lived experience,” she explains. Her goal is to offer a path to financial independence for anyone who comes in the door – so they can thrive not just survive.
Her work has been recognized by many in the community sector and she has recently been nominated for a Women Acknowledging Women Award.
As soon as we heard about Mona’s work through Jane Jose, CEO of the Sydney Community Foundation and her team, we wanted to get behind her and make sure she could keep going. So we asked Mona to join as at our first event for the year.
Mona told her story, complete with slides of the impressive results of her carpet tiling, to our event held at Minter Ellison in early February. Since then she’s worked full steam ahead with the backing of supporters like Women Kind to build up CSS even more.
Mona's warmth and enthusiasm has hit a nerve with our supporters and already motivated a generous round of donations. Join the circle of givers to keep her important work going through 2020 and beyond.