Racheli (whose name in Amharic is Yakba) is 22. When she was 10 years old she and her family made Aliyah. One of eight children, Racheli found that she was a quick learner and within a short time, she was a fluent Hebrew speaker. In contrast, her parents were having a hard time learning Hebrew and integrating into Israeli society.

The spark to become a nurse was ignited when her older brother developed cancer. She and her family were with him during chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and slept in his room during his many hospitalisations.

“Admittedly, I was young and didn’t grasp the seriousness or extent of his illness. You find solace and hope when you hear of people who have recovered, but mostly you are filled with uncertainty and fear. You are clueless as to what to expect, and you realise that you have no control. It was during these periods in the hospital with my brother that I was exposed to the devotion and caring of the nurses," she said.

"I was entranced by the nurses' personal connection with their patients, how much they helped them, not just physically, but emotionally as well. 'This is holy work', I thought to myself.”

Racheli saw a pathway to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse after reading about the Ethiopian Nursing Scholarship program on social media. She was proud to have passed the one year preparatory (mechina) year in spite of the challenges she encountered along the way.

“This has not been an easy year for any of us; the pandemic, the uncertainty, the many changes and demands, the remote learning and the intensity of the academic studies combined to make this first year towards the degree a most challenging one,” she said.

But, as she remarks, it was the encouragement, help and guidance of the staff, program director and educational faculty that helped her succeed in the preparatory year.

Racheli understands that to continue to succeed she must focus solely on her studies. She has left the family home and has taken advantage of the opportunity offered by her scholarship to move into a dedicated university dormitory which has been set up to support the Ethiopian nursing students. Here, she has space to study in peace (something she never had in her crowded household) and is surrounded and supported by other students, the majority of whom, like her, are facing the challenges of being the first in their family to undertake a university degree.

Without this support, I could not continue with the program and become the kind of nurse I dream of being. I will always be grateful to the Australian donors who made my dream possible.

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