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Heads above water

Laura Jewell

When the downturn threatened students' welfare, our community stepped up.

In an incredible show of support from donors, staff and alumni, more than $200,000 was raised to assist University of Tasmania students suffering hardship caused by COVID-19.

This followed Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black and the University’s Executive Team making significant personal contributions of their own.
More than 340 generous donors have given to the Student Support Appeal.

Their generosity helped the University provide more than 4,000 grants to students to support their living and learning expenses.

Laura Jewell, a final-year nursing student, was struggling to make ends meet when she contacted the University for help.

“I was pretty desperate; unable to work, my family couldn’t support me, and I wasn’t able to afford both food and rent,” Laura said.

Laura received a $350 grocery voucher, which she said provided enough food for one month.

“The money meant that I could afford groceries and keep my head above water,” she said.

Laura, who studied straight through summer and has started a job as a nurse at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH), is incredibly grateful for the kindness shown to her during a tumultuous time.

“Thank you to everyone who donated,” she said.

“I will remember your generosity and hopefully someday I am in a position where I can help someone in a similar state to mine.”

The Appeal, which launched in May 2020, formed a key part of the University’s response to ensuring students were safe, well, and supported.

Alumni also gave generously, demonstrating to the future generation of graduates what a compassionate community they will soon be welcomed into.

Stephen, a University employee who donated anonymously to the Appeal, said he felt compelled to give after hearing about the plight of students.

“I thought that this was a time when everyone needs to pitch in and help each other out, so our family started to think about what we could do to support others,” he said.

“Working at the University meant I was aware that there are some families who have cobbled together whatever money they can to support their children to gain a tertiary education, and COVID impacted many of these support channels. Many students also have to work to support their studies and when that work dried up, they were struggling. There is often a fine line between swimming and sinking.”

Paige-Raewyn Agius, a Master of Social Work student, lost her job in 2020 and the bills began mounting, putting her at risk of physical, mental, and emotional burnout.

Thanks to $400 worth of grocery vouchers, Paige-Raewyn was able to feed herself and stay on top of her finances.

“Being a university student is stressful on a normal day, because of COVID it became something unimaginable,” she said.

“Students like me were confined to their rooms worrying how they would get through the next day and couldn’t see a way forward other than scraping through.

“We were surviving, but I wouldn’t say we were living.”

Paige-Raewyn said she was grateful for the support, which meant she could continue her studies and her placement.

While many donors wanted to meet the immediate needs of students like Paige-Raewyn and Laura, others chose to support Southern Lights Access Scholarship, which is part of the University of Tasmania’s Access Scholarships.

Since they were introduced in 1995, access scholarships  aim to help eliminate cost as a barrier to higher education.

With the support of donors and the University, more than $2.7 million was provided to students for living costs, study resources, and emergency assistance during 2020.

Find out more about how you can support students at: utas.edu.au/giving/areas-to-support/people

Image: Final-year nursing student Laura Jewell will never forget the generosity of the University community.
Published on: 29 Jun 2021 11:44am