Shoalhaven local Elizabeth Wilson credits the Country Education Foundation (CEF) and its affiliate the Shoalhaven Education Fund (SEF) with making her a better nurse.
The 24-year-old from the NSW south coast received two grants from SEF and graduated with a nursing degree from the Shoalhaven campus of the University of Wollongong in 2014. She is now working at the Shoalhaven Memorial District Hospital in Nowra.
Elizabeth says the assistance was “incredible”.
“The monetary grant helped me buy textbooks, expensive-but-necessary nursing shoes and even a new computer.
“But even more than that, the support I received made me believe in myself. It gave me confidence to be able to complete my studies and become a registered nurse able to advocate for my patients.”
Elizabeth’s colleague, intensive care nurse Kate Joannou, agrees. “It’s the confidence it gives you to push on that is the most valuable,” says the 23-year-old, who received three grants while studying at Wollongong uni.
The women were among the first grant recipients from the Shoalhaven Education Fund, which launched in 2012, and are among more than 4000 alumni who have received assistance since the Country Education Foundation began its work 25 years ago.
SEF Chair Linda Marquis says Elizabeth and Kate had impressed the interview panel with their clear goals.
“While both had the physical and emotional support of their families, it was clear that financial support was going to be a struggle, particularly during the clinical placement component of their degrees,” Linda says.
For Kate, news of her third grant via CEF came during her final-year placement. She was eating dinner after a tough week working at a hospital in Goulburn, hundreds of kilometres away, when the email arrived.
“I was struggling a bit,” she recalls. “On placement you’re a long way from home, working full-time for no pay and working on weekends to get some extra money.
“When I opened the email, it was just a feeling of relief. I remember thinking ‘this is fantastic, it means I can have a day off’,” she says of her third grant awarded jointly through SEF and the Rotary Club of Sydney.
“It helped with so many things and it allowed me to focus so much more on my studies. Because even on placements you still have your studies and assignments to finish.”
The women’s decision to stay in the Shoalhaven area was heartening for their supporters at SEF. “It’s now three years since their graduation and it is wonderful to see these two beautiful and delightful young women giving back to their region on a daily basis,” Linda says.
Giving back is an important part of being part of the CEF ‘family’, Elizabeth says: “It is important that people give back in their own ways. I love that I am able to care for the Shoalhaven’s residents and help them get well again.”
Kate has just bought a house with her partner in Culburra Beach near Nowra. She is heading back to university this year to gain further qualifications in intensive care. “I’m really glad I stayed. It’s absolutely important to give back to your community.”
She says young people in regional areas thinking about further study should contact CEF and their local affiliates.
“I’ve already encouraged a lot of people to do it and told them about the emotional and the financial support that CEF offers.”
“It’s a fantastic initiative.”
At the Country Education Foundation we consider our beneficiaries as our family, this is why we like to highlight our CEF Alumni program through stories like Elizabeth and Kate’s. If you are a CEF recipient we encourage you to stay connected with us, all you have to do is register, or find us on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you!