For any child, losing their parents is probably the most devastating thing they will ever have to experience. But for Shamso Hassan, life seemed to deal her blow after blow.
Aged seven, her father passed away and just two years later, she lost her mother to breast cancer. Orphaned and living in a war-torn country, her story is one of tragedy and heartache, but also of undeniable spirit, inspiration and great determination.
Now 15-years old, Shamso lives in Melbourne after fleeing Somalia with her older sister Hamdi in 2011. Despite her many hardships, she has unprecedented drive and ambition for someone her age. It’s that passion and will power that has brought her to North Melbourne and resulted in a Huddle Inspire scholarship for 2013.
“I don’t have parents. In 2003 my mother died... I can’t really remember my father,” Shamso said.
“I came here with my sister who is 17 and we moved in with my aunt and uncle and their eight children. It was exciting to come to Australia. There is more peace here.”
Shamso’s cousin Amal Ahmed is on hand to translate during our interview, however her English is very impressive.
The girls have a special bond and have each been awarded a $2,000 scholarship for their education thanks to Inspire; the network of professional women associated with North Melbourne.
“I was feeling really happy and excited when I found out I got the scholarship. I’m going to use it to help buy books and pay for my studies.
“I like the help I get from the Huddle. I always work on my homework because I want to improve on my English and the tutors always help me.
“I want to be a nurse after school.”
Shamso attends Gilmore Girls Secondary College in Footscray and is looking forward to celebrating her 16th birthday in a couple of weeks. After everything she has been through, the young woman has a positivity that is to be admired and she sums it all up in just a few simple words with a huge smile on her face.
“I’m happy here.”
Amal has a very different story to her cousin Shamso. Born in Australia, Amal lives with her parents Liban and Fadumo, older sister Ayan, younger sister Amina and brother Mohamed.
Amal speaks Somali at home but her English is now more dominant and she is a world away from the civil war her parents escaped 17-years ago.
“My mum and dad were both born in Somalia but moved away because of the war. They lived in Sweden for about six months on their way to Australia, that’s where my older sister Ayan was born,” Amal said.
“They don’t tell us many stories about Somalia, but they say it was very difficult. They still loved it though because it was their home country.”
Amal’s father is a taxi driver who works hard to provide for the family, while her mother works in childcare two days a week and studies at an English school. Both have made many sacrifices to provide the best life they can for their children.
“My mum, she looks for everything she can find to help us. She found out about The Huddle and then she got me and my siblings enrolled here in the study support and other things. Then my mum told all my cousins and our friends to get involved.
“When I found out I got one of the scholarships I was over the moon! My mum was really happy and the family were all really proud of me.”
Amal is heading into year 11 next year at Preston Girls Secondary College and her dream is to become a child psychologist when she finishes.
“I’m really interested in the brain and how people react and learning more about that. I do a lot of science and maths at school.
“I would also like to do Business at uni as well so I could open my own clinic one day.”
Amal has already planned how she will spend her scholarship money.
“The $2,000 is meant to go toward study support and that’s exactly what I’m going to use it for. I would like to get an iPad because I have so many heavy text books and we can just get them on the iPad instead.
“With the rest of the money I am going to put it in my parent’s bank account and I will use it for my uni fees.”
After attending the Huddle for almost two years, Amal is very grateful for the support she has received and believes it has had a significant impact on her education.
“Everyone is assigned a mentor, mine is Alexa. She works with me on any of the subjects I need help with; she even helped me write a resume and cover letter. It’s very beneficial.
“It’s great my cousin Shamso came along to the Huddle as well and we always invite our friends to come too.”
With school wrapping up for the year and holidays approaching, Amal and her family are looking forward to making the trip of a lifetime to see some very important people.
“We talk almost every single day on the phone but I’ve never met the rest of my family over in Kenya.
“My dad can’t come because he has to work but the rest of us will go and we will get to meet our grandparents for the very first time.”
The girls were presented with their scholarships at Wednesday's Inspire cocktail party.
The Huddle would like to thank the Inspire group for helping make a difference in the lives of both Shamso and Amal.