Volunteering is second nature to Sara Shengeb. For the third year Psychology major, giving back to the UWA and Perth community is something that means a lot to her.
“I’m originally from the African nation of Eritrea. We fled to Ethiopia when I was 15, and lived there for three years as refugees. In 2011 we came to Australia and I feel very humbled to have been given the opportunity to live here.
“Contributing to my new community is very important to me. I want to give back, make new connections and also play my part in helping other young people, including those with migrant and refugee backgrounds integrate,” she says.
Sara is particularly passionate about young people and their access to quality education especially those with migrant and refugee backgrounds, and has been nominated for the Young People’s Human Rights Medal for her significant work in this area.
In 2016 alone Sara coordinated Shout Out, an initiative to empower young people with refugee and migrant backgrounds to share their stories and co-organised the inaugural Catalyst Youth Summit. She also mentors fellow students, and is part of an advisory committee at the UWA McCusker Centre.
“Through initial volunteering work, I kept hearing the same themes from young refugees and migrants. They struggle to find their place in the Australian community, and aren’t optimistic about their education opportunities or having a chance to make their mark on the world.
“The Catalyst Youth Summit was about encouraging young people to become positive change makers and empowering them to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas on policies that affect them as a community,” she says.
Shout Out is a forum to help train young people to be public speakers.
“Our aim was to train participants so they are able to share their stories and in doing so, break down stigmas associated with being a refugee or asylum seeker.
“I am able to use my own experiences to empathise with the challenges they face. I hope my story shows that there are many opportunities for young people from migrant or refugee backgrounds. The key is to be proactive in seeking them out,” she says.
Sara says the volunteer and internship opportunities at UWA helped her develop the skills she needs to face real issues occuring in local and global communities.
“UWA has been an incredible place to build my skill base. The volunteering opportunities I’ve accessed have helped me find a cause I’m really passionate about and I hope I can continue to make a contribution.”
The Young People’s Human Rights Medal will be awarded on Friday in Sydney.