ALI REZA YUNESPOUR: Passing on the gift of education to others

30 June 2011

International Studies student Ali Reza Yunespour is using his education at the University of Sydney as a platform to help his fellow Afghanis.

Ali Reza Yunespour this year saw the opening of a school he helped build in his home village of Berjegai in central Afghanistan. After arriving in Australia as a refugee six years ago, and seeing the disparity in educational resources between Australia and his home town, Ali has made it a priority to help share the gift of education to those Afghanis less fortunate than he.

"My life has changed so much through heaving access to education opportunities, and I strongly believe that education is the strongest way to bring peace to the world. It also opens up more opportunities for those kids than they ever could have imagined in their entire life."

The School Project came about after Mr Yunespour was awarded a Rotary Young Leadership Award just after leaving high school. He attended a one-week camp for young leaders, at which he learned that in addition to having the will to help people, contacts are also important. "So, I went back to the Rotary Club of Ryde and I put forward to them an idea for a new school building for my village", he says.

Partnering with the Indigo Foundation, who have been developing educational opportunities in the region since 2003, the School Project has contributed to the Borjegai village in a wide variety of ways, including seeing girl's attend school in the village for the first time, an increased community understanding of the value for education, teacher training to raise the quality of education on offer and community cooperation between all three tribes of the village who are working together on the project.

Ali Reza Yunespour sees community involvement as being key to making this a successful undertaking.

"We have about 50% contribution from the village in every project that we do. This comes in the form of providing labour for the work that is taking place, providing land, and also taking responsibility for maintaining the buildings. This community-lead development is the most valued to me."

And Mr Yunespour certainly takes his commitment to community seriously, as he has also been undertaking volunteer work in Western Sydney to help fellow Afghani refugees. Ali provides assistance to refugees sitting their citizenship tests, he runs a homework support program for refugee students, and provides an English class for elder refugees.

"These are people who can't read and write in their own language nor can they read and write in English properly, and so I had a one-year program, working with 30 people each time. I helped them to get their citizenship."

Mr Yunespour sees the assistance that he receives from The University of Sydney as being key to allowing him to carry out these community projects.

"Sydney University gave me a scholarship, which really helped me in terms of the financial assistance that I needed for transport, and for buying books. But also the daily expenses meant that I really had time to work on my school projects and some of the other volunteer work that I do in Sydney. In that way, Sydney University has been very crucial."

Since 2003, the School Project, with the help of Ali Reza Yunespour and groups like the Indigo Foundation and Rotary Club of Ryde, has helped approximately 5,000 students directly and indirectly in the Borjegai region, with plans to further expand in the coming years. Aiming to assist 15,000 students in Afghanistan by 2016, the School project continues to heed the continued call for assistance from the Borjegai people, as well as from the surrounding villages. Plans for new school buildings are underway, and funding for school furniture, operational costs and teacher training is currently being raised. And Ali Reza Yunespour plans to be there every step of the way to realise the future plans for the project.

"Seeing those 5,000 students and how their lives have changed has made me realise that whatever else I do, the School Project will be a real priority in my life", he says.

To see a recent article on Ali Reza Yunespour in the SMH click here

To visit the Indigo Foundation website click here

Contact: Kate Mayor

Phone: 02 9351 2208

Email: 58123222583f3056224a6f3d0f3e0b110f6d2a2a217c3923