Syrian Refugee's Medical Career Inspires With SSI Scholarship


Refugee students have today received vital funds to pursue their education, under a scholarships program that nurtures the aspirations of refugees like scientist Simon Issa, who is changing lives after receiving a scholarship back in 2016. Allianz Australia and not-for-profit SSI have awarded 34 deserving refugee students with SSI Allianz Refugee Scholarships, which supports refugees and people seeking asylum to overcome the added financial barriers they experience in secondary school, vocational education, university, skills, and qualifications recognition. Syrian-born Simon received this scholarship back in 2016. Nearly a decade later, he is giving back to the community as a clinical measurement scientist at Queensland Health, changing the lives of patients in the regional Queensland town of Mackay.

"As a refugee, I came to Australia with absolutely no money on me. My family had just come straight out of war, and we had to sell everything we owned to get here. We didn't have enough to cover my education. "When my parents found out about the scholarship, they were so proud; I could see it in my father's eyes. He had been so upset when I couldn't go to school as refugees in Lebanon." With the support of the scholarship, Simon pursued undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in medical science. He received an academic excellence award from his university for his achievements. This year's recipients gathered to celebrate their achievements today at Allianz's Sydney office. Since 2016, the program has awarded over 280 refugee education scholarships, totalling more than $700,000. This year, scholarships were awarded to 34 people from 15 different cultural backgrounds, including Syrian, Ukrainian, Ezidi, Congolese, and Burmese. SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the partnership demonstrates a shared commitment to empowering and supporting newly arrived communities to realise their full potential. "People with refugee background face several challenges in pursuing their education. In particular, the increasing cost of living has adversely impacted newly arrived students, who are facing challenges in managing their studies and the cost of rising living expenses. By working with organisations, such as Allianz and other community partners, we aim to offer support to students in their educational pursuits," she said. Allianz Australia Chief Financial, Nathan Fink, said the partnership brings benefits to both the recipients and community. "Allianz Australia is proud to provide financial support to help people with refugee background with their education and skills recognition. We have seen how helping them gain local qualifications hugely benefits these deserving people and can also help alleviate Australia's national skills shortage," he said. "Our collaboration with SSI over the years has seen us fund scholarships for almost 300 individuals from a refugee background and provide permanent jobs within Allianz for 36 skilled migrants. We look forward to following the journeys of these latest scholarship recipients," he said. The Allianz and SSI partnership has been recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission Business Award in 2017.

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