FOR the first time, Prudence Melom's story of pain and hope is being heard - on national radio.

Ms Melom has won the Southern Queensland ABC Heywire 2013, a competition which has given her a platform to share her family's harrowing journey from Chad to Toowoomba.

The story of the escape from war-torn Chad in central Africa and a childhood spent in a refugee camp in Benin was, for this humble 18-year-old, nothing extraordinary.

"I know so many other people who have gone through so much more - I never saw myself as an inspiration," Ms Melom said.

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Winner of the ABC Heywire competition is 18 year old Prudence Melom.
Winner of the ABC Heywire competition is 18 year old Prudence Melom. Nev Madsen

After her father was abducted, Ms Melom and her family were forced to flee Chad for fear of their lives.

"It was a dangerous journey but my mum would have done anything to protect us."

"A typical day in the refugee camp was no breakfast, doing jobs before school before walking for miles to go to school. We would go home and if there was no dinner we would go to sleep."

"I grew up faster than I should have."

Prudence Melom is a voice of hope.
Prudence Melom is a voice of hope. Nev Madsen

Ms Melom said it was her family who gave her the courage to work hard and hope for a better life, an opportunity which finally presented itself when they were accepted into Australia.

"We arrived in Australia knowing no English. People were saying 'hey mate' and we said 'thank you'. We thought that meant hello."

It's only now, after opening up to a nationwide audience that Ms Melom said she has realised just how remarkable her story was.

Heywire

  • Heywire is an annual competition run by the ABC for young people from regional Australia to share their stories, ideas and opinions.
  • The national winners will travel to Canberra next year for the Heywire Regional Youth Summit.
  • For more information visit http://www.abc.net.au and search for Heywire.

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