For Farida Najafi, being announced as this year’s Cashin scholarship recipient is a massive boost after her path to complete further education only seemed to grow harder and harder at every turn.
Originally from Afghanistan, the 19-year-old had been forced to move to nearby Pakistan with her family when she was just a toddler.
The family lived in Balochistan in a small city called Quetta, where many other Afghan refugees had migrated to and Farida went to a Persian-speaking school.
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Unable to speak the local language of Urdu, she couldn’t continue her tertiary studies in Pakistan and she decided to apply for a course in computer science at the University of Kabul instead, where she lived in the student hostel.
“I loved it there, I had a sense of a feeling of love,” she says of returning to her homeland.
But just a couple of months into her course came the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 and crippling restrictions were placed on girls and women.
“Girls could only be educated for the first six years.
“I was a little bit scared. I left the hostel and went to stay with my relatives in Kabul and then my family said, ‘Get home now’.
“Two days later I was back home.”
Farida’s uncle and grandmother live in New Zealand and they began the process of sponsoring Farida, her three sisters and mother to join them.
Farida’s father, who has lived in Australia since she was eight, is hoping to join them too.
The family arrived last August and Farida quickly looked for some part time work, spotting the kitchen assistant role at Hilda Ross where she was tasked with washing dishes.
Farida works part time in the kitchen at Hilda Ross Retirement Village.
She embarked on her English NZCEL Level 4 study and investigated a course at the New Zealand School of Tourism.
“In June I saw about the Scholarship on ChattR and Fiona (Le Gros, Senior Lead Chef) told me about it and said to give it a try.”
The Cashin Scholarship was set up in 2012 in memory of Mike Cashin, who was a Ryman director at the time of his death in 2010.
Mike was a huge believer in the power of education to improve lives, and the scholarship is intended to provide support for people who need it, with both Ryman employees and their families eligible.
Farida was also inspired by her colleague Angus Newell’s scholarship success earlier in the year – fellow kitchen assistant Angus was named the Graeme Rabbits scholarship winner.
Her application was shortlisted and she was asked to do a Zoom call with the Cashin family.
“I was a bit nervous but they were very friendly and I was feeling better after that.”
Then came the news – and a slightly delayed reaction!
“Lucie (Harrison, People Development Coordinator) rang and said, ‘I’m so delighted to say you’re this year’s Cashin scholarship recipient.’”
Farida laughs: “I wasn’t sure at first so I said, ‘does that mean I’m the winner?’”
Realising that she was indeed the winner of the $10,000 scholarship, Farida was thrilled as were her parents and sisters.
A bouquet of flowers from Ryman Healthcare to celebrate Farida's achievement.
“It means a lot to me, it can help me to achieve my goals.”
It also means she can return to her original dream of doing computer science, eventually leading to a job in web development.
“By winning this scholarship, I want to be a positive impact and motivation in my community and to those who have experienced similar challenges that I have.”
Lisa Cashin and her brother Blair were extremely impressed by Farida’s determination to succeed and commended her aspirations.
“Farida’s passion for learning and her unwavering determination have set an inspiring example for all of us, and beautifully embodies everything our father believe in and what this scholarship stands for,” Lisa said.