Aiding society’s most vulnerable
While many of us feel empathy for people enduring hardship and challenge, those who step in and truly help are a much rarer breed. Samira Aili is one of those remarkable individuals.
Samira has dedicated herself to positively impacting the lives of vulnerable people, most notably women in crisis. She spent over two years a greatly valued volunteer at Lou’s Place, a safe space for women seeking refuge from domestic violence, assault and drug abuse. The unique, independent daytime drop-in refuge for women in Sydney’s Kings Cross offers critical frontline services including crisis intervention, ongoing case management, referrals and legal advice, as well as a place to rest, eat, shower, wash clothes and enjoy some company.
Entirely self-funded, Lou’s Place relies heavily on the contribution of volunteers like Samira. She took an active role in a diversity of essential tasks and programs, from running health workshops and solving problems to producing client newsletters and conducting data analysis for management reports. Crucially, she made herself available to these women by listening to their stories with kindness and the absence of judgement, providing support and empowering them to improve their situations.
Samira currently volunteers with the Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter (NBWS) in Manly, a not-for-profit community-funded organisation offering safe haven and support to homeless women to enable them to rebuild their lives, reclaim their independence and rejoin society. Here, she acts as a bridge between the NBWS’s clients and essential community services, including translating in French and Arabic and accompanying women to medical appointments, along with undertaking a host of administrative duties.
“Most of the women who visit these shelters are at their lowest, and from my many conversations with them I know that that can happen to anyone, anytime – regardless of how successful or not you were before,” says Samira.
“I want to use my knowledge and skills to benefit these women in any way that I can.”
The refugee and migrant community also benefit from her compassion and dedication. Since 2016, Samira has served as an executive member of a community group supporting refugees in Villawood Detention Centre. She provides much-needed moral support to detainees, collecting items from the community such as fresh food, books and games and visiting those desperate for company and hope. She was also instrumental in establishing an association promoting Algerian culture and celebrating the achievements of its Algerian-Australian members.
She volunteered in 2012 as a mentor to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through AIME, providing advice on pathways to higher education. She also served as a volunteer in 2011 and 2012 at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Acute Aged Care ward, assisting delirium and dementia patients with mobility, therapeutic activities, meals and companionship.
Samira spent six years as a Student Promotional Representative of UTS (SPROUTS) promoting STEM degree choices and pathways to high school students. Having completed her PhD in 2018, she is now a casual academic and workshop presenter in UTS Science’s outreach programs, actively inspiring young women to pursue their passions into STEM careers with potential for profound impact.
Far from seeking accolades, Samira sees helping others as an honour and a privilege. Her selfless commitment to empowering her fellow human beings earned her a High Commendation in the Vice-Chancellor’s Social Justice/Human Rights Award for staff at the UTS Human Rights Awards 2018.
“I like to keep busy and not waste time, and even though it can be a challenge juggling medical school, work, volunteering, exercise, and social and family life, it’s well worth it. It’s the small gratitudes that motivate me to keep going and keep giving.”