When Dung Nguyen first arrived in Australia from Vietnam in 2014 she had poor English skills, no friends, no support, no job, and felt lonely and isolated living in the small western Victorian town of Nihll.
Moving to Ballarat and joining women's immigrant and refugee group A Pot Of Courage three years ago transformed her life.
She is now employed for the first time since she moved to Australia and has developed confidence, friendships and strong English skills with the support of a strong network of women behind her.
Being a part of the program and the group makes me feel I belong in BallaratDung Nguyen
Ms Nguyen spoke to The Courier on Wednesday in the kitchen at Ballarat Community Health in Lucas while making her much-loved traditional Vietnamese rice paper rolls to be sold in the new A Pot Of Courage Cafe.
"I am really happy in Ballarat. I have a lot of good friends and I have a job now. My family, kids and husband are happy here," Ms Nguyen said.
"I think I am lucky I came to Ballarat."
Social enterprise A Pot Of Courage offers employment, skill-building and social connections for refugee, immigrant and Aboriginal women in Ballarat.
Around 12 women have been cooking for private catering and running cooking classes for 12 months, and are now also cooking for a new cafe at Ballarat Community Health in Lucas that opened four weeks ago, showcasing the food and stories of their home countries.
The expansion of A Pot Of Courage comes after the group launched recipe and story book It Takes Courage in June last year, an idea that was born after the women from diverse cultural backgrounds would come together, cook and share food every week.
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"Being a part of the program and the group makes me feel I belong in Ballarat," Ms Nguyen said.
"The women in the group are like family. When we are sad we cry and we are happy together exactly like family. I think I belong in Ballarat."
Ms Nguyen's rice paper rolls have already gained a reputation, with people travelling across town to buy them at the new Lucas cafe.
They also tell a story of her life growing up in Vietnam and learning to cook from her grandmother who ran the family rice paper making business.
"I make them exactly like people in Vietnam do. When people try they say they have never had better before. I am really happy with feedback from the customers," she said.
A Pot Of Courage founder and co-ordinator Shiree Pilkinton said too many women from marginalised communities were finding it difficult to secure employment, which was one of the reasons she founded A Pot Of Courage.
"Dung is an absolute star in the kitchen and worked in restaurants in Vietnam. People are driving across town to have her food. But she was not getting interviews," she said.
"It got to a point where I said to the women it is better for your health and well-being to create your own income than to continue to reply for jobs and not even get a response."
Ms Pilkinton said A Pot Of Courage was also about celebrating diversity and promoting interculturalism.
"When we get positive messages out there and we highlight what our ethnic communities bring to Ballarat it helps them to also feel a greater sense of belonging," she said.
"They love and I love see people come into the cafe, sit down with their food and really love what they are eating and asking questions. They learn not just about the food but about the culture.
"We try to tell stories at the same time and I think that raises awareness of everyone's individual journeys to Australia, why they are here, how they came here and what they are aspiring to."
The A Pot Of Courage Cafe opens from 8.45am to 1.30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Ballarat Community Health in Lucas.
The group also offers private dinner parties, catering and cooking classes and is looking for more volunteers to support its work.