Our Students

Vino Gajindran, Bright Graduate, Level 1 Cook, Novotel Darling Harbour

Vino came onto Bright’s training program at Auburn in 2014, after the Refugee Advice and Casework Service put her in touch with the Salvation Army. From horrific beginnings, she has truly turned her life around through hard work, determination and opportunity. Here’s her story.

“In Malaysia, my father sold me to another family when I was 8. They treated me like a servant. I did all the jobs in the house. I have never been to school at all. I was feeling so bad, always I think ‘why did my parents do this to me? Why?

“I had a boyfriend who beat me every day. I was forced to live with him, otherwise he and other men would all beat me. I reported to the police more than two times about him. They would take him for an hour or so and then he would come back – then I would nearly be killed. Not actually killed but worse than killed.

So I escaped from him. I tried to improve myself, I’m a quick learner. I saved money to come to Australia by playing pool and winning competitions.

I came here on a tourist visa in 2012. I did not know that I needed a particular visa for work, I was so innocent. I was broken hearted – really really broken hearted. RACS organised my asylum and gave me food. From there I met the Salvos and learned about Bright’s training program for people like me.

This is my first job in Australia [Level 1 Cook, Novotel]. When I first joined here I was doing food prep – cutting food, chopping food, doing pancake making, lots of other stuff. I was too slow to begin with. I got quicker for the last four months. I increased my speed by myself. Nowadays almost half of the jobs are done by 12.00pm. I am more than happy to work and sometimes if they want me to go home at 1.30pm, I still ask ‘chef, can I stay and do something for you?’ The chef is a legend. He is very funny.

I am 28 now. Today, I feel so amazing, so good, because of this Bright employment. People are Bright. At the Novotel, people are teaching and they are so good and kind. Sometimes we go out and talk and have fun. I feel like I am already out from my difficult life.”

Vino’s Story

Vino with Executive Chef Anthony Flowers


A Gell Kway, Bright Graduate, Level 1 Cook, Ash St Cellar, Ivy (Merivale)

A Gell joined our training program as a young school leaver in 2014 and stood out straight away as someone who had real promise.

Born in Burma with a twin sister, A Gell’s mother died in childbirth. He and his sister were adopted by a Karen couple and lived in a Thai refugee camp for ten years from the age 5. Schooling was basic – up to Year 4 standards. Life was pretty uncertain and they often went without food.

The family was sponsored as new migrants via the Baptist Church in Australia and they settled in Taree in 2009. A Gell and his sister went to high school there, repeating a couple of grades and graduating after Year 12. Although life prospects had improved for the family, this was initially very hard for him – he spoke no English and had had next to no schooling in his life. To suddenly be transported to a new culture and country added another dimension to cope with.

The Taree Baptist Community were welcoming and inclusive for their new Karen neighbours. A Gell found a new interest in cooking, which he excelled at during high school. Once he left school, a youth centre worker put him in touch with Bright’s program and he’s never looked back.

Today, aged 21, A Gell has worked at Merivale’s Ash St Cellars for almost a year as a Kitchen Apprentice. It’s hard work, but he loves the food preparation and enjoys working under Head Chef Zac Ahrens. A Gell’s sister is also pursuing a promising career as a dental nurse.

“Life is very good”, he says with a smile, and you know he means it.

Bright graduate A Gell Kway and Community Development Manager Felix Ryan