Nineteen-year-old SSI client Atoosa Nooralizadeh is the recipient of an education scholarship awarded by The Hills branch of Soroptimist International, a worldwide organisation to empower women and girls.
Atoosa Nooralizadeh (left) with her family
“When they told me I was going to receive this scholarship, I was so happy I started to cry,” said Ms Nooralizadeh. “I really needed it to continue with my studies.”
Supported by SSI, Atoosa and her family live in the Western Sydney suburb of Fairfield, where she is in Year 12 at Prairiewood High School. Ms Nooralizadeh, her parents and her younger brother are asylum seekers who arrived in Australia three years ago, after fleeing Iran.
“I was going through my half-year exams and my parents told us we were going on a holiday trip. I didn’t find out what was going on until we reached Malaysia, where they told us we were not returning to Iran. I never got to say goodbye to my friends and family,” she explained.
Despite the massive change experienced in her life, Ms Nooralizadeh continued with her education and quickly adapted to the Australian education system. However, her academic performance suffered a setback last May when she underwent open heart surgery, which was followed by a two-month recovery period. Ms Nooralizadeh said she could not afford the support she needed to help her catch up with her studies.
“When I returned to school after my operation I felt completely lost and confused. All my classmates were preparing for the HSC and I was just trying to catch up on what I had missed,” she said. “With this scholarship I will be able to pay for textbooks and especially for a tutor, who can help me understand what they did in class while I was recovering.
“I need to prepare very well for my HSC in order to fulfil my dream of going to uni to study medicine, and one day become a brain surgeon” she added.
The scholarship was the result of an ongoing relationship between The Hills branch of Soroptomist International and SSI.
In particular, SSI Quality Assurance Coordinator Nasiba Akram has a close connection with the Soroptimists, and has previously facilitated other avenues of support for SSI clients.
After hearing the story of Ms Nooralizadeh, Ms Akram felt compelled to help Atoosa continue her education. “I approached The Hills group who immediately understood the situation and generously organised this scholarship for her.”
The Soroptimist’s scholarship presentation took place on July 20 at Bulkham Hills. “Atoosa spoke so beautifully and from the heart,” said Bev Richardson, President of The Hills District branch of Soroptimist. “Her determination and strong spirit shine through.”
The Hills community club also invited Ms Nooralizadeh to join a Youth Science Program and expressed their interest in providing further funding to help her go to university next year.
Soroptimist International is a worldwide organisation that works at all levels of society towards advancing human rights and the status of women.