BENITA Andrews and her husband Jay Windsor's first introduction to the struggle faced by refugees came five years ago.
They made a small donation to help a young refugee who had qualified to play rugby for Australia.
From then on their lives became entwined with those hoping for a new life in Australia.
Mrs Andrews began organising Art4Refugees, a fund-raiser for Wollongong's refugee support organisation SCARF, and Mr Windsor began employing refugees in their business, Southern Habitat.
Charles Kawa, who came to Australia from Liberia, said the opportunity Southern Habitat gave him just two months after arriving in Australia was more than he could have ever dreamed of in his war-torn home.
"Both my parents were killed and my brothers and sisters went away and I did not know where they were," he said.
After living in a refugee camp for 10 years Mr Kawa said he did not mind where he went, he just wanted a fresh start.
"I just hoped if there was a country that God would want me to go I would be very happy to go there," he said.
Mr Kawa said he loved his job doing regeneration and landscape work for Southern Habitat, which specialises in the management of natural, urban and residential areas and the restoration of degraded environments.
"They are very good, caring and God-fearing people. Whenever I have a problem they are always there for me. So I take them as my parents," he said.
"My wife [Comfort] is also working here [in Wollongong] as a nurse's assistant in an aged care home."
After saving every cent he earned during the first two years on the job, now he has a house, a car and a young daughter.
His 15 workmates also make him feel like part of the team.
"I feel happy and we joke together and they have helped make me talk like an Australian."
Now Mr Kawa is helping other refugees.
"I have a full licence and I am a volunteer [at SCARF] teaching other refugees ... to drive," he said.
"I got help from SCARF so it is my duty to help other refugees like myself."
Mrs Andrews said getting involved with SCARF's employment program several years ago was a real eye-opener.
"This year we have financially supported South Coast Sporting FC, a men's soccer team composed of African refugees.
"Going to their games and seeing how much difference participation in sport makes to their lives and how they can mix with the wider community has been a real joy.
"We also rent the house on our commercial property to a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo at below-market rate.
"Through running a successful business, particularly in this difficult climate, we also feel strongly about contributing to the social and economic benefit of the wider community."
Mrs Andrews said there would not be as many opportunities for refugee families without the generosity of business people such as Graham Lancaster, of Access Law Group, who had bought paintings donated by artists for sale at the annual Art For Refugees.
Mr Windsor said Southern Habitat had also employed people with disabilities and indigenous Australians.
He said he was seldom disappointed. In almost all cases he said, "Here is a job, go for it", and he was rewarded with a great employee.
"It is about feeling compassion and acting on it by asking, what can we do?
"Cultural diversity adds to Australia. I had a pretty good upbringing in a pretty lucky place, so for me it is about recognising that I need to give back."