Giving the gift of education

The Chamamyan family. Photo: Kitty Beale

The Chamamyan family. Photo: Kitty Beale

Personal experience of the plight of refugees inspired Sydney Catholic Schools Executive Director to act.

In 2014 during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Dr Dan White witnessed the refugee crisis in the Middle East. Visiting a refugee camp in Jordan he saw the devastating impact of the conflict on families and children and when he returned to Australia he was determined to do something to help.

One of the ways Dr White responded was through the Catholic Education Foundation Bursary Program. The program was extended to include the Refugee Bursary category to support refugee families establish their lives in Australia. The Refugee Bursary ensures that children who have already suffered terribly as a result of trauma and displacement are given what every young person deserves, access to high quality Catholic education.

Since the Refugee Bursary category was introduced in 2014, 66 children from a refugee background have had their education financially supported through the Catholic Education Foundation. Three of those children are triplets – Anna, Agob and Eva Chamamyan – whose family were forced to flee their war-torn homeland of Syria in 2013. With their parents, Antoin and Dana, they spent 18 months in Lebanon before arriving in Australia on a humanitarian visa in November 2014.

In January 2015 the triplets started Kindergarten at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Moorebank through the support of the Catholic Education Foundation Bursary Program. Their father Antoin said he was excited for his children to start school, as they had not been able to attend preschool for the past two years. “They were very anxious to get up and get dressed and come to school. Agob was jumping and laughing, and saying, “We are going to school, we are going to school!”

Principal of St Joseph’s Carol Luc said the school was absolutely thrilled to be able to provide the Chamamyan triplets with a quality educational experience. She said Agob, Anna and Eva have been involved in every aspect of school life over the past 18 months including dance, wellbeing initiatives, English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) program and the religious life of the school. This has enabled them to shine and succeed in their learning.

“They all participated in the school’s annual public speaking program with Eva’s confidence assisting her to reach the final round in the early Stage 1 competition.

“The joy on the children’s faces show that they are thriving in their new setting. Their parents are optimistic for their children and their family’s future and recognise the gift of education as a cornerstone to their future success.”

For more information on how you can support a child from a refugee background by giving the gift of education, visit and click ‘Donate now’.

  • Read what supporters say about the foundation here.


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