Student leader raising vaccine awareness in community

Master of Social Work student Declo Bisimwa has filmed the process of getting vaccinated to raise awareness and ease vaccine fears amongst African communities

Declo wants to combat the 'vaccine fear' that is extremely prevalent in Shepparton's African community. He said the fear stems from past racist, sometimes dangerous health policies and clinical experiments that targeted African communities in the 1960s.

In order to entice more members of Shepparton's African community to get vaccinated, Declo posted a video on his Facebook page showing his wife and fellow social work student, Flavio Lubadi, getting their first COVID-19 vaccinations.

Declo Bisimwa is completing his Master of Social Work at our Shepparton campus. He has lived in Shepparton for 12 years, after fleeing the Congo, and spending time as a child in a Ugandan refugee camp. He also volunteers for the Goulburn Valley Shepparton Congolese Association as a funeral coordinator, fundraising president, and a community youth mentor.

During the current outbreak in Victoria, Declo and Flavio have been supporting 85 African families in isolation in the Greater Shepparton area with regular deliveries of food and other supplies.

"What prompted me to make the video is that many young people don’t understand the importance of being vaccinated and the danger we are facing with this virus, and that generally, people in our community need to be informed.

“We are currently providing information to educate and raise awareness and to create a better understanding. We want to encourage all young people and their families from the African background to get vaccinated.

“I feel that I can be a positive role model in both the Australian society and within the African communities.

“We hope to achieve the highest possible vaccination rate in Greater Shepparton, among the African communities and across Australia, even in Africa as we have people connected to us across the globe.

“Being a La Trobe student has given me the chance and opportunity to meet up with people from different cultures and diverse backgrounds and learn from their experiences. This has helped me gain so much knowledge, confidence, and motivation to work and share my own life journey as a refugee with other students, encouraging further understanding of cultural diversity.

Having grown up in the streets with little hope and no education, I love, appreciate, and am so grateful for the opportunity that La Trobe University has given me.

“I have been given a huge opportunity to come to one of the best countries in the world, which I am grateful for, and I want to pay it forward.”

Link to Declo Bisimwa’s video on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/declon.bisimwa
Link to ABC News Online article 19 Oct: African community leaders working to address Shepparton's COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-19/working-to-dismantle-vaccine-fears-in-african-communities/100541692