Winter Appeal 2018

Since being forced to flee Afghanistan and later Pakistan with her family as a refugee in 2006, Shamsiya has worked hard to pursue her dreams in the face of the challenges associated with being a young Muslim woman in Australia. Shamsiya didn’t speak any English when she arrived in Renmark as one of the first few Afghan families to settle there. During these early years of transition she experienced an immense culture shock, the impacts of language and social barriers, harassment, racism and isolation. As her parents did not grow up with the privilege of access to education, Shamsiya has shown extraordinary determination and resilience in taking up every opportunity available in order to develop her language skills, broaden her education and contribute to her community.

From these humble, dangerous and, at times, life threatening beginnings, Shamsiya now speaks four languages fluently, was the first Afghan Australian woman to be awarded Year 12 Dux at Roma Mitchell Secondary College with an ATAR of 99.75, as well as being appointed House Captain, and is currently in her third year studying a double degree in Law and Journalism and Professional Writing at the University of South Australia. She dreams of becoming a Foreign Correspondent, determined to bring a unique and holistic understanding of marginalized women and children around the world who are often neglected or misrepresented in the media.

The challenges faced by young women from refugee backgrounds is extremely close to Shamsiya’s heart and from the age of 14 she began volunteering and connecting with organisations like ARA, The Association of Australian Tertiary Students from Afghanistan, Salisbury Youth Council Twelve 25, Welcome to Australia and was selected to attend the Australian Multicultural Foundations two day Youth Leadership Forum where she developed a deep concern of domestic violence and mental health issues within both the Australian and Afghan community.

Shamsiya joined ARA in 2014 as a dedicated and passionate Youth Ambassador. She has consistently dedicated her time as a mentor, engaging public speaker and a courageous advocate for ARA’s work. Her story and insight into the immense grief and difficulties faced as a refugee has made a strong impact in government organisations, schools, universities and community groups. Shamsiya boldly and maturely inspires those from refugee backgrounds to grasp their opportunities, challenge racial stereotypes and gender barriers and demonstrate leadership.

At ARA we work with young people like Shamsiya to ensure they have access to all the tools necessary to grow into the future leaders in Australia. ARA’s programs for young people provide assistance through Homework Clubs, School Holiday Programs, the Youth Ambassador Program, Friday Hangout, Career Counselling, Driver’s Education and much more. Many of these programs are funded solely through grants and fundraising, and this is why we need your help.

I am writing to you today to ask for your contribution towards assisting exceptional young people to achieve their best. Through your generosity ARA is able to provide a full range of services to ensure that we provide a holistic service to our clients.

Kirsten Bickendorf
Chief Executive Officer