A lifelong philanthropist, Dorothy Hoddinott AO has dedicated her life to providing education scholarships for young refugees.
Supporting young refugees and ensuring they have educational opportunities has always been close to Dorothy Hoddinott’s heart.
As a former school principal of Holroyd High School in Sydney, where more than half the students come from a refugee background, she has seen first-hand the importance of supporting young people and helping them achieve their goals.
In 2017, Dorothy set up a Sub Fund with Sydney Community Foundation to provide post-secondary education scholarships for refugee youth.
“It’s always seemed to me like a sensible thing to give what you can, while you can,” Dorothy says.
“It’s obvious to me that if you have any spare money, you should give it to someone who might need it more.”
Friends of Zainab
While working at Holroyd High School, Dorothy set up a trust fund for a young and brilliant refugee woman, Zainab Kaabi, an asylum seeker from Iraq.
“When Zainab was 18 she got a phone call from immigration to say she had to stop going to school, as her temporary visa benefits had been cut,” Dorothy says.
“I couldn’t let her leave school, I had to find a way. I put in some money and I asked my friends and colleagues to contribute, and we raised sufficient money to keep Zainab in school so she could complete her HSC.”
And so Friends of Zainab was born, but the challenges continued. After the HSC Zainab was accepted into a health sciences degree at Macquarie University but was told she would have to pay $24,000 in full international student fees. Dorothy managed to scrape together the funds to cover Zainab’s first semester fees – a sum of $9000.
“I said to the university, do you mind if I put this on more than one credit card? And I put together all my credit cards and paid her first semester fees,” Dorothy recalls.
Thanks to the help of a lecturer at Macquarie University, the fees were paid and refunded to Dorothy, but Friends of Zainab continued to pay a fortnightly stipend to the young student to help pay for educational materials and living expenses.
The long-lasting legacy of Friends of Zainab has seen a large number of refugee students receive modest scholarships to help them through high school and beyond, with many going on to third-level education.
“We’ve created over 500 scholarships through Friends of Zainab for students in the last two years of high school and the first two years of university. They’re very modest scholarships, but they really make a difference to those young people,” Dorothy says.
Creating a brighter future
All throughout her teaching career Dorothy has worked with refugee children, and she says that seeing first-hand what they have endured was like having a veil pulled off her eyes.
“Some of these children have been through really brutal experiences. I remember a boy sitting in my class quite calmly talking about his boat getting close to the coast of Malaysia, and it was rammed by a Malaysian patrol boat and sank,” Dorothy says.
“He was one of the few people who got to shore because he could swim. And he was with us at the school doing his HSC at the time… so much trauma that was probably never dealt with.
“I’ve also taught Vietnamese refugees and children from Afghanistan, who had lost lots of family members, so it was like a gradual consciousness of the needs of children from those very traumatised backgrounds.
“Education is a really important issue for refugees. They see how important it is in order for their children to succeed.”
The scholarships that Dorothy helps provide enable students to cover small expenses which can add up and be a barrier to success, such as stationery, printer ink or even laptops.
Dorothy’s scholarship Fund has now been extended to other students through Sydney Community Foundation.
You can help young people reach their potential through continuing education scholarships. Please make your donation and support the Dorothy Hoddinott AO – Refugee Scholarship Fund, a sub-fund of Sydney Community Foundation here.