My Story by Barry Berih | Community Stories


DISABILITYI was born in Australia to Eritrean parents in the mid-90s. I was also born with mild cerebral palsy. Growing up in the late 90s there wasn’t a lot of support for young African kids with disabilities. Growing up I felt alone mentally and physically, I didn’t know where to go for help. By the time I went to high school I went to a disability school. Life opened up for me there, I was more independent, I had friends that understood what life could look like. For me, I had a goal to get a job and then follow my dreams.

Which I is why I started to work at the YMCA when I 18 years old. I have been there for 10 years.

When I started working I felt a great energy  I started making my own way to my goals.

I was alone when I was a kid, I couldn’t fit into society because of what I felt inside my mind and my life. I spent my life with my family and they have supported me.

LOCKDOWNWhen I heard the news that North Melbourne and Flemington were in a lockdown my heart started to beat. As a youth worker I was in the moment. What can I do, who do I speak to,  where do I get information. These were my questions in my mind. When I saw the police, I felt I was in jail just waiting for release.  I was scared; I was thinking of my community and my neighbours. The first five days were extremely difficult because I had to deal with police, DHHS, emergency services, and help my community. During the lockdown and immediately after I helped organise a meeting with the education department and local residents, an online discussion group for VCE students in the nine towers, and a Co-Health employment opportunity session. The lockdown was scary and straining on me and on the community, but in these efforts to help, I felt almost like a superhero.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”
– Nelson Mandela

Following the announcement of the Shelter 2 commissions program, MAV worked with North Melbourne tower residents Reem Yehdego and Barry Berih, to host several online info sessions.

These sessions created a safe space for residents to connect and talk about the arts, about their experiences of the lockdown, about life in the towers in general.

They generated particular interest amongst young people from the community who led some lively discussions and sharing of stories, experiences and reflections on the hard lockdown.

While most chose to limit their engagement to these online sessions, 3 of the young people involved wanted to share their stories and perspectives with the world.

My Story by Barry Berih is created for Shelter 2.

Shelter 2 is proudly supported by VicHealth, Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne and Australia Council for the Arts.