Abudi Awaysheh, BSc’06, MSc’10, has already come a long way on what he calls his “quest for social justice.” Despite facing numerous challenges along the way and having only just entered his thirties, he is determined to help others overcome their obstacles.
Following his graduation from Western, Mr. Awaysheh studied law in Victoria, BC, and is now a union side labour lawyer based in Vancouver, advocating for human and worker’s rights on behalf of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). He travels extensively in Canada, representing marginalized groups of workers like the elderly and disabled.
“My extracurricular activities led to me becoming the social justice advocate I am. I was elected as the Graduate Student Representative on Western’s Board of Governors and before that I had never met a lawyer or thought to be one. When I was elected to represent the Teaching Assistants at Western, I developed my interest in human and worker rights.”
Mr. Awaysheh says he would not be where he is today, had it not been for the support he received during his time at Western. “I have a permanent disability and paid for all of my schooling. Had it not been for the unique ‘Western Experience’ I received, I would not be the person I am today. The financial aid I received, including the Reinhard Konrad Memorial Bursary, ensured my undergraduate studies were never interrupted.”
To show his gratitude for that assistance, he recently established the Dr. Jack Bend Award, named in honour of Distinguished University Professor Dr. Jack Bend, which will support MSc or PhD students with permanent disabilities who demonstrate financial need.
“As an MSc student, my thesis supervisor Dr. Jack Bend supplemented my research stipend from his own research grant, as he recognized that as a disabled person my academic average would not allow me to receive a fully funded research stipend. He also encouraged me to pursue extracurricular activities, and patiently supervised me in numerous emails over two years when I was studying law in Victoria, while he was in London,” he says.
“Now that I’m in a position to give back, I wanted to honour and thank him for providing me with so many opportunities. I am very grateful to him for recognizing the difficulties faced by people with permanent disabilities,” he says. “I hope that this award will help others who have disabilities to achieve their goals despite being at a significant disadvantage and facing challenges that most do not.”
Dr. Bend, who describes the award as a “tremendous honour,” says this generous gesture is typical of the type of person Mr. Awaysheh has been throughout the time he’s known him. “Abudi was always very appreciative of having had the opportunity to attend university,” he says. “He is not only an excellent example of someone who has taken a multi-discipline approach to education, but also of someone who is very aware of challenges that individuals face and who is eager to help. He faced challenges but he always worked hard and never gave any indication he was struggling.”
Mr. Awaysheh hopes that recipients of this award and other funding will also be motivated to give back and that the cycle of support will continue. “Providing financial assistance to a student allows them to self-develop and take on opportunities they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” he says. “Every dollar donors give is hopefully ensuring that we’re creating a better society with less of a socio-economic divide.”
For more information about supporting student awards, contact Carole Stinson, Executive Director, Development Programs (519.661.2111, ext. 85696 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit extraordinary.westernu.ca
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