Koondoola mentor asked to speak at Harmony Week art exhibition

Bella Ndayikeze with her artwork.
Bella Ndayikeze with her artwork.

MENTORING others led to a Koondoola woman being invited to speak at the opening of an art exhibition in Sydney for Harmony Week.

Bella Ndayikeze (21) mentors youth through the Edmund Rice Centre WA (ERC) in Mirrabooka and will speak at the Harmony Art Collective exhibition opening in the Darling Quarter on March 13.

Miss Ndayikeze said this was the first time she’d worked with other people on an art project.

“I work for Edmund Rice Centre; I run a creative art program for young people from refugee backgrounds,” she said.

Miss Ndayikeze said she took four girls to a two-day workshop with illustrator Jeremyville as part of the national art project, and they encouraged her to get involved too.

“I wanted the girls, who are very artistic, in my program to have an opportunity and have a space to be creative and get inspired,” she said.

Bella Ndayikeze mentors others through the Edmund Rice Centre.

The result was a painting that symbolised how seeds of creativity can ignite knowledge and growth that stems from that.

Having already found success as a football player and coach through ERC’s programs, Miss Ndayikeze said her goals this year were more creative.

She is writing a book and has restarted her music career, with plans to perform during National Youth Week.

Miss Ndayikeze said she was also looking forward to returning to her country of birth, Burundi, in October, to visit the grandmother she hasn’t seen since childhood.

She came to Perth in 2005 as a refugee and went through an intensive primary school program to learn English.

She said she struggled with bullying and racism in the early years, as well as experiencing physical violence at home before her parents divorced and mental health issues.

Her life turned around when she joined an ERC program and started playing football.

“It was for at risk kids – that helped a lot on my journey,” she said.

“I just became a better person.”

Miss Ndayikeze has coached football teams with the West Coast Eagles and WA Football Commission, but said her career goals have changed to do community service or mentoring.

“I always dreamt of becoming an AFL coach; I did that once then I realised my heart belongs in the community, in grass roots,” she said.

“My biggest drive is to give young people and children opportunities to be able to do something more productive.”

The Harmony Art Collective is a collaboration with Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), the Federal Government and aMBUSH Gallery.

This is the first year WA was included in the initiative to unite disadvantaged young people aged 15 to 24 through art, and the exhibition will run until April 27.

Harmony Week runs from March 15 to 21 every year.

ERC will host its 10th annual Mirrabooka Harmony Celebration at the Herb Graham Recreation Centre on March 16 from 10am to 2pm.

The free event will include cultural performances, school performances, children’s activities, a free sausage sizzle, cultural food tastings and information stalls.

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