Griffith University students Bec Silman and Angus Burkitt remain inspired and humbled by the act of generosity that changed their lives.
It was in October 2016 that the two Griffith Futures Scholarships recipients attended a breakfast to speak about the importance of the Staff Giving Program that supports students who are excelling at university despite facing personal or financial difficulties.
Among the guests that morning were leading Gold Coast developer and founder of the Sunland Group, Dr Soheil Abedian, and his wife Anne, who were there to launch their own initiative: the Abedian Foundation Griffith Futures Scholarships.
However, so moved were they by the testimonies of Nursing student Bec and Sport Development student Angus, the Abedians responded with a wonderful gesture of further support.
Anyone fortunate enough to be there that day will attest to the uplifting emotional moment as Mr Abedian pledged to pay for Angus to undergo a much-needed hip operation in a private hospital, and to provide crucial financial support for Bec until her graduation at the end of 2017.
A year later, Bec’s and Angus’s stories warrant revisiting. Bec, for example, has been supporting her father and younger brother since her mother’s death from cancer six years ago. Her father was left unable to work because of physical complications from a work accident and suffers from depression. At one stage, the family faced homelessness.
Angus, meanwhile, had been suffering from femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), in which the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped. The combination of this debilitating, painful condition along with study commitments, financial stress and the long public hospital waiting list had been physically, mentally and economically trying.
Almost a year later, it’s wonderful to see Bec and Angus so happy, healthy, stress-free and still performing brilliantly in their studies.
“This past year has been beyond a dream. I still think I’ve been on the Ellen or Oprah show,” says Bec. “The support I received from the Griffith Futures Scholarships and the Abedians meant I could stay in my degree. It meant we weren’t going to be homeless. It meant not having to work 40-50 hours a week on top of my studies. It meant I could be my own age for a change.”
Bec’s ambition is to work in a neo-natal care unit, a goal affirmed by a recent placement at the Gold Coast University Hospital. She is grateful for being able to pursue opportunities that once seemed out of her reach due to circumstances beyond her control.
“There are no words to properly describe how to thank the staff of Griffith University and the Abedians for giving me the future I have always dreamt of,” she says.
Angus, too, is thriving as he looks forward to graduating at the end of the year: “I had my hip operation last November. My physio said it would take six months before we’d know for sure if the operation was successful. May marked that date and I’m pleased to say it was a success.”
The operation has changed Angus’ life in many ways. What hasn’t changed is his career ambition:
“My goal is to work with people with disabilities and to help them experience the many benefits of sport and physical activity.”
After recently completing a seven-week placement with Gold Coast Recreation and Sport in Southport, Angus has just begun a part-time position with the group.
“It’s been an amazing year and I can’t thank the Abedians and the Staff Giving Program enough for all the help I have received,” he says.