In the busy streets of Bankstown in Sydney’s southwest, a mere stone’s throw from the local railway station, you’ll find a haven of creativity and resilience known as CSS Village.  

At the heart of this ‘village’ stands Sister Mona Mohamed, a humble, wonderful woman blessed with a huge heart – and a mission to weave hope into the fabric of every life she touches. 

With a vision of a future community that is cohesively multicultural, non-profit organisation Community Support Services Incorporated (or CSS Village) has introduced many great initiatives since Mona first opened its doors six years ago. 

But it’s the sewing program (aptly named “Sew Good”) which has really had people talking, including some great recent coverage on SBS television and in the Bankstown Torch newspaper. 

“Sew Good is open to people from all walks of life; my simple desire is to empower women through the art of sewing,”  Mona told AMUST, her voice carrying the passion of her purpose.  

With each stitch, Mona believes, comes not only skill but also confidence, sustainability and creativity for her participants. 

CSS Village’s Sew Good program has been life-changing for Masarrat Imam (photo courtesy of SBS).

One woman whose life has been completely transformed within the folds of CSS Village is Masarrat Imam.  

Grieving the loss of her husband and battling illness herself, Masarrat found solace in the rhythmic motion of her needle and thread.  

“When I am making traditional clothes, I remember always my sister and mum, and it’s a little bit emotional,” she told SBS. 

Mona personally witnessed Masarrat’s journey from sorrow to strength, cherishing her as one of the Village’s own.  

“Masarrat is one of our wonderful ‘aunties’,” Mona comments with pride, her words echoing the resilience of a community bound by threads of empathy. 

But CSS Village is more than a tranquil oasis in the heart of Bankstown; it’s a go-to place for so many in a world where loneliness and mental distress are huge issues.  

Mona Mohamed (right) was recently named the NSW government’s Local Woman of the Year for Bankstown. With her is Commissioner Carlene York, a finalist in the award.

As Mona candidly revealed, she has battled her own demons, living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression for nearly three decades.  

Yet from her struggles emerged a commitment to support others facing similar challenges and an understanding of why this kind of advocacy is so vital.  

With unwavering determination, she built CSS Village, a sanctuary for the vulnerable, offering a lifeline for those struggling with isolation and despair.  

However, Mona’s vision extends way beyond her organisation’s various initiatives and classes, encompassing a holistic approach to empowerment.  

“It’s wrap-around support,” she explains. 

A sewing teacher for 40 years, Thanh is an invaluable member of the CSS Village team.

“Every month, over 2,500 people from the local area rely on CSS Village for food and support services including marginalised families, the homeless, people with disabilities and special needs, seniors, refugees, domestic violence victims and international students. 

“But they have one thing in common…..all they need is the chance to thrive, not just survive.” 

“Our practical services and training programs assist people to become part of our community and build a better future for themselves and their families, including many thousands from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.” 

With over 30 volunteers on the books, Mona’s dream has flourished, touching the lives of countless individuals in the City of Canterbury-Bankstown local government area as CSS Village has become a safety net for those in need, embodying the spirit of community and compassion. 

And as the ‘Village’ has expanded its reach over the past six years, Mona’s message has echoed louder than ever: “Join a village or grow your own….but whatever you do, don’t be alone.”  

As previously referenced, Mona’s own journey hasn’t been without its challenges.  

Born and raised in Australia to Egyptian parents, she navigated the complexities of identity and belonging from a young age.  

Now a proud mum of six, she has long understood the struggles faced by families in her community and it was this empathy that drove her to found Community Support Services Incorporated in January, 2018. 

Over time, she has put together a one-stop-shop for the Canterbury-Bankstown district, offering referral services, educational seminars, case management, financial assistance and youth education and support services. 

“We do our best to open avenues to train women and youth alike to become financially independent,” Mona explains, her determination unwavering. 

 

“By providing pathways to employment and entrepreneurship, we’ve sought to create a positive ripple effect at CSS Village.” 

Drawing inspiration from the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” Mona’s commitment to social cohesion remains as steadfast as ever. 

“We also get a lot of men who become homeless and find it really difficult to navigate,” she adds, highlighting the importance of inclusive support services.  

Beyond providing tangible support, CSS Village also offers a wonderful helping hand in a world often overshadowed by loneliness and mental distress, echoing Mona’s message that no one should ever feel alone.