Meet John Akway Cham – Reporting on Coffs Harbour multicultural communities for News Of The Area

John Akway Cham.


STARTING this month, Coffs Harbour’s John Akway Cham will be contributing stories for News Of The Area on the diverse, multicultural nature of the region.

Born in Ethiopia, John settled in Coffs Harbour as a permanent resident in August 2019 under the Humanitarian Visa Program, after spending time as a refugee in Kenya.

“I was born in a small and marginalised community in Gambella, western Ethiopia from a Nilotic ethnic group, Anuak,” said John.

“My unschooled parents guessed that year to be 1987.”

The Anuak are a Nilotic people who live in southwest Ethiopia and adjacent areas or southeast Sudan.

The term ‘Anuak’ is derived from the word ‘Nywaak’ which means sharing.

“Despite our small population as an ethnic group, divided between the two countries, Ethiopia and South Sudan, I was proud of being Anuak because of the past history of love, sharing and the spirit of unity among the Anuaks,” John said.

When he was ten, John’s father, a subsistence farmer, sadly passed away, leaving John and his two younger brothers to be raised by their mother.

“Being the first born, I tried harder to be a man and a good example for my younger brothers.”

In 2003 John left everything behind and fled to neighbouring Kenya, where he settled as a refugee.

In that process, John was separated from his mother and brothers for eight years, until they were reunited in 2011.

It was in the Kenyan refugee camps that John began to put his thoughts to paper.

“I finished both primary and secondary school in the Dadaab refugee camp, one of the world’s largest,” John said.

“It was in secondary school that I developed a passion and dreams towards writing.”

In 2016, John was given the opportunity to study an online Diploma in Public Administration from Cambridge International College, supported by the Help Dadaab Organisation, based in the UK.

In 2017, the Danish Refugee Council supported him to study a Diploma in Community Development and Social Work, both completed in Kenya.

Four years later, John maintains a strong passion for writing, and is now using his skills to shine the light on the incredibly diverse multicultural community of Coffs Harbour.

This week John provides his first News Of The Area submission, with a story about the experience of Christmas in Australia and in refugee camps.

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