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Betelehem Ketema is the winner of the 2015 Cashin Scholarship.

The 18-year-old student has won a $5,000 grant to pay for her studies at Otago University where she is beginning a Bachelor of Oral Health degree this year.

Betelehem works part-time at Rita Angus Retirement Village in Kilbirnie, where her mother Azeb Kebede also works as a caregiver.

Three of Betelehem’s sisters – Rahel, Eskedar and Jerusalem also work at the village.

The family moved to New Zealand as refugees from Ethiopia when Betelehem was three. Azeb moved here on her own with her five children, and she adopted two of her younger sisters as well. The family of eight made a new life in Wellington.

Betelehem said the money would help pay for her studies.

“It’s absolutely amazing, I’m so grateful and happy right now. I feel so blessed.’’

Her plan is to complete her studies and then she’d like to spend some time working in dentistry in Ethiopia – to give something back – before settling long term in New Zealand.

She’s worked as a kitchen hand, laundry assistant and as a cleaner at Rita Angus to raise funds for university.

“I love it at Rita, the people are so nice, they’re all lovely.’’

The Cashin Scholarship was set up in memory of former Ryman director Mike Cashin.

Mike was a huge believer in the power of education to change lives and was a great advocate of Ryman Healthcare and its staff. The scholarship was set up after he passed away in 2010 to honour his legacy.

The scholarship is open to Ryman staff members and their families, and each year members of the Cashin family help select the winner.

Blair Cashin, Mike’s son, said Betelehem was a deserving winner.

“We had close to 130 applicants this year and it is always hard to decide, but Betelehem’s application really stood out. She’s got a busy year ahead and we hope the scholarship will help make it easier.’’

Ryman Healthcare deputy chief executive Gordon MacLeod said it was great to see a staff member doing so well.

“We’re really thrilled for Betelehem and we wish her the best with her studies in Dunedin this year. We’re also delighted to continue the relationship with the Cashin family.’’


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