Saffi Abad has always believed in giving back – and now her community spirit has been recognised with a scholarship from the Lions Club.
The Bachelor of Government and International Relations student is the inaugural winner of the Ron Ould Memorial Scholarship, which recognises outstanding participants in Griffith University’s Community Internship program.
“I’m so shocked that I won – it’s really humbling,” she said.
“It will make a huge difference. I work two jobs, I volunteer at two places and I study full-time, so every little bit counts.”
Rewarding community values
Lions Club Brisbane Macgregor members Baska Desha and Narelle Wyvill-Anstey said the scholarship was created to honour late Lions Club member Ron Ould and celebrate the values he lived by.
“Ron had a passion for service and helping those in need,” they said.
“He had been active in the local community for 40-odd years, and this scholarship rewards young people who share his passion for giving back to the community.”
Saffi will receive her scholarship award at a ceremony next month, attended by the Ould family and representatives from Lions Club of Brisbane Macgregor.
The Community Internship program is designed to give Griffith students hands-on experience in a range of community organisations.
Director of the Service Learning Unit Dr Faith Valencia-Forrester said the program had been running at Griffith since 2012 and now involved around 700 students a year.
The multi-discipline course partners with a range of non-governments (NGO) and not-for-profit organisations at a local and global level.
“It’s all about authentic experiences that make a difference – students develop the kinds of skills that will make them employable and become better citizens,” Dr Valencia-Forrester said.
“We get amazing feedback from our students – they go into it expecting to change other people’s lives, and it ends up changing theirs.”
Many of the internships have pivoted online due to coronavirus restrictions.
The Service Learning Unit has also just launched a series of webinars that showcase impact projects around five key areas: digital inclusion for education and employment, mental health and wellbeing, homelessness, disability and sustainability.
Lending a hand
Saffi volunteers with the Refugee Association of Queensland, helping refugees and asylum seekers navigate the visa application process. She has also taken on a volunteer position with the United Nations Association Peace and Security program.
“It’s been a big eye-opener, and you have to learn how to separate yourself from the work and still have compassion,” she said.
“It can take an emotional toll – you are dealing with people who have been through so much and their stories can be heartbreaking to hear, so you want to give them the best chance possible.”
Helping make a difference
Saffi had several international internships lined up for this year, which have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, including an AIM Overseas Exchange to Mexico and a Griffith Business School Leadership Program in China.
“I’ve always been interested in politics and making a difference and helping people,” she said.
“My studies at Griffith have also opened up new pathways that I never knew existed – my dream is to work for an NGO or the UN.
“The internship program has definitely been one of the highlights of my time at Griffith.
“It gave me the kinds of hands-on, practical experience I need.”
A values-led education
Saffi says she chose to study at Griffith University because of the institution’s long-standing commitment to social justice, equity and sustainability.
“The values that Griffith is built on really attracted me – these are the values I live by, and studying here, they are ingrained in every course,” she said.
“There are so many opportunities out there, and you have to be willing to put yourself out there.”