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Refugee students supported on journey with scholarships

By Fiona West | June 20, 2022
‘Happy and grateful’: Navitas Skilled Futures scholarship recipients Karima, Feras and Wahida.

Three outstanding refugee students from Navitas Skilled Futures Canberra have received scholarships from Canberra Refugee Support (CRS) to encourage and support them on their settlement journeys.

The Geoff McPherson Refugee Scholarships, which include a cash grant and certificate, were presented to Afghan refugees Karima and Wahida, and Iraq student Feras, at a Refugee Week celebration at the Canberra college on Monday 20 June.

The three students were all professionals in their home country – an obstetrician/gynaecologist, a teacher and an anaesthetist – and are all excelling in their English lessons, with the aim of progressing to further study to gain meaningful employment in Australia.

They each thanked CRS, Navitas English and the Australian Government for giving them the opportunity to start a new life in Australia, admitting they were “in shock” when they came to a new country, which Faras explained had a “different language, a different everything”.

“When I came to Navitas I could not speak anything, but now … I have improved my language, my speaking and listening,” Feras said.

“I am very happy now. I am looking forward to working in Australia, and to my kids hopefully one day going to university.”

Karima and Wahida, who were forced to evacuate Afghanistan urgently when the Taliban took control in August last year, are still coming to terms with the upheaval but are gradually settling in and are “happy and grateful”.

“In the future I have a plan to improve my academic English and to do further study … and already I have been enrolled in Calvary Hospital in a mentoring program, so this is my big achievement, and day-by-day my English is improving, my writing skills are improving,” Karima said.

Scholarship recipients Karima, Feras and Wahida (centre), with CRS representatives Judy Loy and Jane Lake (left), and Navitas Skilled Futures Canberra AMEP Team Leader Sharon Gilbert and trainer Deanne Penman (right).

CRS Scholarships Program Coordinator, Jane Lake, said she wished she could give a scholarship to everyone at Navitas Skilled Futures after sitting through the morning’s student presentations on the importance of human connections, and “healing” (the theme of this year’s Refugee Week).

“We want to say to the award recipients that we welcome you to the Canberra region, we acknowledge what you have achieved so far, and we look forward to what you will contribute to your family and to your community in the future,” she said.

Ms Lake read a statement from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regional representation in Canberra congratulating the award recipients on demonstrating a “commitment to learning and the important personal characteristics of resilience and determination” despite challenging circumstances.

“Education helps people forced to flee build better futures. It empowers us all with the knowledge and skills to live productive, fulfilling and independent lives,” she read.

“Education will enable you to learn about yourself and the world around you, while providing opportunities for new connections and community, and in turn a sense of belonging.

“We trust these scholarships from Canberra Refugee Support will further enable your commitment to education and provide an opportunity to gain the knowledge and the skills to live a fulfilling life. UNHCR’s message is to never stop learning!”

The Geoff McPherson scholarships, named after the founding president of CRS, are in their 18th year and are an important part of the support they provide to refugees and asylum seekers undertaking studies in the ACT region. The scholarships, awarded to more than 40 refugees in 2022 at a cost of up to $40,000, have been made possible by generous donations from the Canberra community. 

CRS is a not-for-profit organisation that introduces local volunteers to refugees and asylum seekers in Canberra.

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