Today, Rashad Nadir is making a difference in our public hospitals working as a nurse while studying part time to get a masters and continue helping his adopted country after fleeing Afghanistan.
“My new home Australia is like a second mother for me, it taught me to speak, how to walk again, how to drive, and how to work and make a living,” Rashad said.
If an example is indeed needed of why a helping hand is a transformative necessity and it’s not always possible to ‘just pull yourself up by your bootstraps’, consider the challenges Rashad overcame just to get to class.
Rashad’s father was an Afghan Army Sergeant. He was shot and killed by unknown assailants in the country’s north.
Rashad was seven at the time.
The family fled.
It was a long journey.
First Iran. Then Malaysia. With his sister, brother and mother.
Finally, they got to Indonesia and a people smuggler’s boat.
“When I saw the boat which was very old, rusty and leaky, I was very excited because I’d never seen a boat in my life and neither the ocean. For me it was very exciting to get on the boat and watch the waves,” Rashad said.
The older passengers knew enough to be much more wary.
“I remember one night I woke up from my mum’s silently crying and saw my mum’s scarf wet from her tears. She was in the middle of praying. After spending four nights and five days, we got to international waters and the Australian Navy rescued and took us on board. We were extremely happy that we made it safely."
A new country and life
Rashad then travelled from Christmas Island to Darwin. He didn’t speak any English.
In a few months, the journey continued – this time to Chester Hill in Sydney’s western suburbs.
First to the Chester Hill Intensive English Centre.
Finally, and still without much English, he started Year 8 late at Chester Hill High School.
“At that time, I still could not speak English properly and I wasn’t able to make a full conversation, or pass on the message clearly and the way I wanted to. I was bullied a lot, bullied from students who are my best friends now,” he said.
“They use to tell me 'why you here for, go back to Afghanistan' or 'shut up you don’t know how to speak English'. At that time I could understand what they say but I wasn’t able to answer them back or stand up for myself.”
It rocked the young man’s confidence but he wasn’t going to give anyone the satisfaction of knowing.
“I still remember those days that I got bullied from the students. I would sit in a corner with teary eyes. But I never showed them that they hurt me. I always stood up strong."
Enter The Helmsman Project
Year 9 is a pivotal year for any student.
For those with disadvantage, it can be make or break.
That’s when Rashad was partnered with his Helmsman – a coach to instil in him the resilience to make the most of his new opportunity in Australia.
Again, a boat was pivotal to his journey – but this time it was a safe, protective environment where he learned what he was capable of and began rebuilding that confidence.
“We went sailing for five days and four nights. Those five days were full of challenges and strengths. Challenges such as sailing the yacht, doing night duties and over watch the yacht and many more,” he said.
Remember the helping hand?
Remember that necessity of the helping hand? Let Rashad tell you what it did for him.
“I cannot thank The Helmsman Project enough. This project helped me to come out of my shell and be who I am right now, it helped me to be confident and stand for my rights."
“This project boosted my courage to do public speaking. This project helped me to fill all the gaps I was missing and made me perfect.”
I could be a great example for other students who have gaps in them and by the help of this project, they will be a great leader themselves,” he said.
Rashad hopes other students will get the chance to take part to boost their confidence, resilience and decision making.
The lessons help him to this day.
At the end of the year, he’ll graduate from his Bachelor of Nursing. There’s work as an enrolled nurse at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital. Then it’s on to his masters.
Could you be the next Helmsman or support one to help today’s high school students fighting through the pandemic?
Written by Conor Duffy, National Education Reporter for the ABC and ambassador of The Helmsman Project.