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Why Give | Impact stories

“What you are doing is the definition of meaningful change”

Lara Albahadeli explains why receiving a donor-funded scholarship was the happiest day of her life.

Lara Albahadeli moved to Canada from Iraq when she was just seven years old. She had already lost her father to the war, and so travelled with her mother to start a new life—neither speaking a word of English when they arrived.

“I had to learn English and everything,” she says, “and I became responsible to translate for my mother.”

In the years following their move, Lara’s two sisters were born. Such was the age gap, and such was the responsibility that Lara was assuming in the household, they came to view her as much more than their older sister.

“My sisters really see me as a second mother. I took care of them and so they really look up to me.” She touches her hand to her heart before continuing, “I really, really do love them. And I definitely do not see them as my younger sisters. I see them as my little kids.”

By grade 11, Lara was dreaming of coming to UBC to study. Her mother was attending the dental clinic at the Vancouver campus, and Lara would accompany her to the appointments. Every time, she found herself gazing at the campus outside.

“I remember always looking out the window and saying, ‘oh my god, mom, imagine if I could be at this university studying here every single day. This is such a beautiful university, it would be a dream to come here.’”

But for a long time, Lara feared her dream would never come true. Her family responsibilities placed a lot of demands on her time, and she worried that the financial barriers would be too great. She did not want to leave her family, or stop being able to help and support them—but she also desperately hoped for a way to find space for her own dreams.

“I was very stressed over how I would fund my education. And then I remember seeing a photo of a girl standing in front of a poster with her picture on, with a quote saying, ‘I received the Beedie Luminaries scholarship and all my education is funded.’ And I was like, wow, that’s really cool.”

Inspired, Lara worked as hard as possible at high school, achieving the grades she needed to be accepted to UBC. Whether she would be able to accept the offer, however, depended on her scholarship application. When the news came she had been successful, it was overwhelming.

“It’s definitely the happiest day of my life. And it was more than just financial relief. In that moment I understood that all your dreams, all your prayers, can come true—and all your hard work does pay off.”

For Lara, her goals have been shaped by her experiences and family responsibilities. As well as helping her family navigate all the bureaucracy that comes with moving to a new country and starting a new life, in a foreign tongue, she also found herself spending a lot of time helping her family with legal issues.

“My family went through some difficult times. When my mother divorced my sisters’ father, I was the one there with the lawyers, translating, doing the documents, emailing. That taught me a lot and I realized, as a lawyer, I could help people. Through my life I’ve seen a lot of inequalities, so I’m really passionate about human rights. My dream is to study at the Peter Allard School of Law, and to become an international human rights lawyer.”

Wherever Lara goes next, she will always feel grateful to the donors who helped her along the way. After facing up to so much adversity in her life so far, it is a gift to be able to dream about the future, and the impact she might make on the world.

“Truly, there aren’t enough words that I could say, to show how much gratitude I have. The way I think of it, you’re not just helping one student. You are helping so many other people, because that student you opened that door for is going to go on to help others. What you are doing is the definition of meaningful change.”

If you would like to support amazing students like Lara, please give to the FORWARD for Students fund.

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