In September 2000, a then seven-year-old Safa Rahimi flew into Sydney Airport. The Rahimi family (which includes four daughters and one son) had spent the last eight years living in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan.
“Thinking back on it,” recalls Rahimi, “coming here was very, very shocking. It was so different from what we had experienced in Pakistan. We didn't know where to begin or what to do.”
Rahimi and her family, with help from her father’s brother, settled in Western Sydney. Her mother, a paediatrician, stayed home to raise the children while her father, an optometrist, went back to work.
Fast forward to 2011 and Rahimi began studying social inquiry and law at UTS. “My parents, at that stage, were retired and I didn't want to rely on them financially, so I started working quite long hours.”
By early 2015, Rahimi was not only studying full-time, but working part-time in the personal injury department of a private law firm, working weekends at Officeworks, interning at Immigrant Women's Speakout Association and volunteering at the Australian Refugee Volunteers.
“It did take a toll on my mental health and also my physical health,” admits Rahimi. “So I thought I should probably get some help.”
With encouragement from a friend, Rahimi applied for the UTS Alumni Scholarship and her application was successful. “It was just a massive weight off my shoulders,” she reveals.
Not only did the scholarship help Rahimi pay for text books and reading materials, but “it made me step back from work for a while and just concentrate on uni.” She was even able to undertake an additional teaching session for honours in law.
Rahimi says, “There are a lot of students who are struggling to go thorough university not because they don't want to be there, but because they're so worried about how they're going to buy textbooks or travel or buy laptops or notebooks or pens.”
UTS’s Annual Appeal Manager Natalie Shillitto agrees. This month, as Rahimi graduates from UTS, the university is also launching its Annual Appeal.
“We raise funds primarily for disadvantaged students, who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend university,” says Shillitto.
Last year, the Annual Appeal raised over $150,000. This year, the target is $200,000. And while Shillitto’s team will focus much of their efforts engaging with alumni, staff and the general public are encouraged to contribute too.
“It’s quick and easy to donate,” says Shillitto. “You can do it all online and select whether you want to make a one-off contribution or a recurring gift. Donations of any size quickly add up and every gift makes a real and positive impact in helping students in need.”
Rahimi agrees. “What strikes me particularly about this program is that it helps students who genuinely need it. You can never go wrong with helping students who actually require, and are grateful for, that help.”
To find out more about the UTS Annual Appeal or to donate now, visit giving.uts.edu.au