Schoolgirl’s story about fleeing Islamic State wins Australian writing competition

Sarah Sona was only eleven when her family fled Iraq.



Islamic State militants invaded her small village of Qaraqosh in 2014 vowing to kill all Christians.

“I was very scared and nervous because we could hear people screaming. My neighbours were telling us [her family] to run away because there was no where we could stay, they would just kill us”, the Year 6 student from St Dominic’s Primary School Broadmeadows told SBS World News.

Sarah has now been awarded the Young Journalist award by the Australian Catholics magazine for her entry detailing her harrowing journey from her small village in Iraq to Melbourne’s northwestern suburb of Broadmeadows.

The theme for this year’s competition was Justice Heroes with students asked to write about a hero from their own community.

Sarah’s family first escaped to Erbil and travelled to Jordan. Here, members of the humanitarian charity, Caritas, took Sarah and her family into their care. 

Sarah based her story around this organisation that she says made her family’s life in Australia possible.

“They [Caritas Jordan] are the real justice heroes and I will never forget them”, Sarah’s entry reads. 

Caritas Jordan have been working with refugees since the escalation of violence in 2010.

There are 165 Caritas agencies globally working to end poverty and promoting justice. Caritas Jordan has been in partnership with Caritas Australia working on programs for refugees fleeing attrocitieis in Syria and Iraq.

Sarah Sona says her Justice Heroes are the Caritas Jordan volunteers.Caritas Australia

Humanitarian program coordinator at Caritas Australia, Suzy McIntyre, said Sarah’s piece highlighted the significance of work by organisations like Caritas to protect refugees. 

“Sarahs piece is very significant for Australians to understand the work being done like Caritas for refugees”, Ms McIntyre told SBS World News.

Ms McIntyre said she was so uplifted by Sarah’s piece that she contacted Caritas Jordan to notify them straight away.

“I sent them an email to share the story. I think they were touched that Sarah was able to express personal gratitude to them”, McIntyre said. 

The life I’v nw wd’t have been possible without @CaritasJordan #justice #heroes #Sara #Iraqi_refugees @CaritasAust 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/Hi1Tu9ebIK

— Caritas Jordan (@CaritasJordan) September 9, 2017

 Sarah spoke only a few words of English when she arrived to Australia last year. She says Caritas introduced her to English.

“When I was in Jordan, some teachers from Caritas came and they started teaching me writing”, Sarah told SBS World News.

“I knew the letters but I didn’t know how to read. They started showing me easy words, like apple and banana and I started learning quickly.

“I always thought English was really hard and impossible to learn but here I am”, Sarah says.

Sarah with Caritas Australia staff member, Megan Bourke, at the Awards Ceremony.Caritas Australia  

Sarah, an aspiring author, says writing is an integral part of her life. 

“I think I can make my imagination work pretty well and I can be free. When I’m angry, I write – and it just makes me feel better”, Sarah says.

This is the first time Sarah has openly penned her journey from Iraq to Australia and says her winning entry has given her a taste of what it would be like to accomplish her dream.