Feven Dawit Asfaha had to face her fears to share her story.
The Grade 12 Gordon Bell High School student was one of the featured speakers at the Westland Foundation’s 2019 Fundraising Breakfast on May 15 at the RBC Convention Centre.
"It was great, it helped me overcome my fears of talking in front of a huge number of people," Asfaha said. "I spoke about how education is very important and how costly it can be to go from high school into university."
Asfaha is a soon-to-be Westland scholar who will be receiving financial support from the foundation to pursue her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon. Since 2009, the foundation has awarded 762 scholarships to inner-city youth totalling over $461,500.
Asfaha arrived in Winnipeg with her parents and three sisters in 2015. Born in Eritrea, her mother decided to move the family to Sudan in 2009 to make a better life.
"Everything was more expensive every day and if we were to turn eight or above we could not leave the country," Asfaha said. "Two days before I turned eight we left the country."
They lived in Sudan for six years before coming to Canada. Asfaha says she experienced a bit of culture shock when she arrived, but has since adjusted to life in Winnipeg and is working towards her goals.
"It was very different, there were a lot of different people and cultures that I met here," she said. "I knew how to speak English, but I wasn’t perfect at it, so when I started school I had a little bit of hard time to understand some people."
She discovered her love of science in the biology lab at Gordon Bell. Last year was the first time she had taken science classes since Grade 7.
"I did not take biology before or chemistry or physics and so when I started taking them they started to introduce me to concepts that made me want to major in neurosurgery," Asfaha said, adding that she’s also a fan of doing dissections in class.
Science has helped her look at the world in a different way and has piqued her curiosity.
"I don’t find it simple, but I also find it very interesting because every day you learn different things."
She is headed to the University of Manitoba in September, where she will start working on a degree in biochemistry.
When asked what her family thinks of her dream of becoming a neurosurgeon Asfaha said, "They’re very proud… they left their country to see me succeed and reach my goals."
Receiving a scholarship to pursue that dream has also allowed Asfaha to pay back some of what her parents have sacrificed.
"It means a lot because by getting that scholarship I can use it to buy my university books or any (thing) that I might need for school," she said. "I don’t want my parents to pay everything for me, I want to relieve some of that financial burden."
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.