My Story by Barry Berih

“My name is Barry. I am 26 years old and I live in North Melbourne. I am a youth worker and a peer advocate in the city of Melbourne and Flemington working with a number of organisations. My passion lies in creating programs for young people in high school or University that cater to emerging leadership and self confidence for marginalised youth.

I was born with cerebral palsy and this is my story.”

Image credit: Barry Berih. Photo courtesy Multicultural Youth Services.

My Story by Barry Berih

I 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.

When 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

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.