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A TAFE NSW international student from Rwanda has been named the NSW Vocational Student of the Year for her vision of providing care for elderly women in her homeland.
Francine Ikirezi immigrated to Australia after growing up in refugee camps in Africa. It was after a random encounter with a woman carrying heavy bags that Francine decided she wanted to establish a 'safe houses' program for vulnerable women back in Rwanda.
"When I first landed in Australia I met an elderly person in the street, walking and carrying heavy bags from the shop," she told the Bankstown Canterbury Torch. "I helped her and started lending her a hand with chores around the home."
As a result of this chance encounter with a stranger, Francine realized she'd be a good carer, so she set about turning her dream into a reality. She found full-time work in an aged care facility in Goulburn and enrolled at Bankstown TAFE to study a Diploma in Business Administration.
"It was a lot of travel time from home to TAFE each week, but I was determined to complete this course," she said. "I've seen how elderly people in Australia receive quality care and I started thinking about the elderly in Africa who don't have this chance. From that time my mind started expanding, asking myself what I could do to set up aged care in Rwanda."
Francine's vision is for the women back home to have opportunities to make and sell products so they can gain some financial independence. To this end she has already successfully secured a house and some sewing machines and fabrics.Receiving the NSW International Student of the Year award was a complete surprise to her and has buoyed her efforts to see her vision through to completion.