Seven Scholars, Seven Lives Changed for The Better
The Daughters for Life Foundation is thrilled to welcome the new scholars joining us in 2022! We have a total of seven brilliant new scholars from all over the Middle East, pursuing their studies across a wide variety of disciplines and academic levels, spread between Canada and Belgium to mark a new chapter in DFL’s history. In late August, we managed to catch up with the scholars just before many of them departed their home countries for one on one interviews, getting to know them and what their scholarships mean to them in their own words.
Noran Khafaga was the first scholar interviewed. She’s a twenty-six year old practising physiotherapist who will be attending Antwerp University to pursue a Master’s in Neurological Disorder Rehabilitation. She’s a bright and passionate young woman who spoke to us with a great level of sincerity about her journey thus far. The reason she was drawn to physiotherapy was due to its multidisciplinary examination of neurological and physical disorders. She felt that due to its huge and direct impact on a patient’s quality of life despite their health status, it would allow her to provide preventative and proactive care with a focus on ensuring an enjoyable life. Her introduction to the Daughters for Life scholarship program came through a contact at Antwerp University, as she was interested in the university’s program prior to becoming aware of the foundation. Noran was very moved by the mission of the foundation as she learned more about their work, feeling especially moved by the dedication to uplifting students like her.
After she made the decision to apply to DFL’s scholarship program, this initial impression only deepened as she found the entire experience to be unlike any other scholarship application process she’s had in the past. Contrary to her past experiences, she felt that DFL was with her through every step, bolstering her confidence and also appearing to her to be invested in her as a candidate and invested in her personal success. Once she received notice that she had successfully been accepted for the scholarship, Noran was overcome with gratitude. Over the last half-decade, Noran endured severe academic burnout prompted by a colleague, causing her to lose faith in the trajectory of a career she was so passionate about. With the achievement of receiving a DFL scholarship, Noran reflected on this period of her life and the stark difference in her present. She now feels the transformative effect of the scholarship, citing it as a source of renewal for her hope and going as far as saying that her acceptance “[…] healed all of my previous wounds. I can be confident again, valuable and happy.”
While looking ahead to the near future, Noran is looking most forward to starting her new life in Belgium, far away from her home in Egypt. She’s eager to meet new people, and to serve as a mentor and role model for younger girls who may be in the position she was in not too long ago. She hopes to also land a clinical internship while in Europe, to learn Dutch and French and to make lasting connections, enriching and immersing herself fully in the new world that’s opening up to her.
Nancy Khaled is a twenty-six year old Egyptian scholar heading to Antwerp University to receive her Master’s in Physiotherapy. She was a thoughtful speaker with a unique focus on relieving her future patients of their pain, centring their experience and their well-being on her professional goal. Her fascination with the field of medicine can be traced back to her high school days and later evolved into a keen interest in physical therapy which she eventually pursued as a professional avenue. She was interested in the function of physical therapy as a healing practice in medicine and especially the non-invasive nature of it as an alternative to surgical intervention in pursuit of pain relief. After her undergraduate studies, she was still eager to deepen her knowledge and felt that the program offered by Antwerp University would fit her needs perfectly with its comprehensive curriculum.
The Daughters for Life Foundation first appeared on Nancy’s radar through a former DFL scholar now turned Alumni, Esraa Naguib. That gave her some familiarity with the work of DFL. Upon hearing more about it, Nancy set forth to research the scholarship program offered by the foundation. She described her impression of it as a type of home for its scholars, keeping up to date on their progress and achievements. The warm atmosphere and the meaningful mission motivated her to eventually apply. The application process itself was fairly smooth, aided along by the responsive nature of DFL’s team working alongside applicants to aid them however possi
ble. Nancy also partook in DFL’s applicant mentorship program where she connected with another DFL scholar–now a successful graduate–Ni’mati Dmeiry. Her anxieties were soothed by Ni’mati who helped her gain more confidence through warm encouragement and by fielding all of her questions as someone who’s been through the process herself.
After receiving he
r notice of acceptance over email, Nancy finds herself stunned by her reality. She’s very optimistic and excited about all of her upcoming new experiences. Most of all, she feels that her program fits her goals like a glove and she’s excited to make the most of her time at Antwerp University. Once she gets settled in, some of her to-do list items are: to try some world-renowned Belgian chocolate, study French and Dutch and get acquainted with local culture and customs, travel around Belgium and connect with the diverse pool of peers she’ll be learning alongside. We can’t wait to see what comes next for Nancy!
Wafa Hayek is an eighteen year old from Jordan on her way to Toronto’s York University to pursue her undergraduate degree in Psychology. As a member of Generation Z, she shared her passion for her chosen program and her intentions to make an impact. Her inspiration to pursue psychology was somewhat bittersweet, as she cited the unfortunate lack of accessibility to mental health support and services in her hometown for the vast majority of people. Though mental health services are available, there are barriers to entry in some cases. Wafa has the noble goal of expanding mental healthcare’s reach in her community, allowing more people to prioritize their mental well-being without having to face societal or economic obstacles along the way. She hopes to evolve into a professional in the field of psychology by honing her already present traits of being a great and empathetic listener, a problem solver and an objective, non-judgemental pillar of support.
Similar to Nancy, Wafa initially heard of DFL’s scholarship program through someone in her network who turned out to be DFL’s own Dania Mahadin, a current DFL scholar. After inquiring to her college counsellor about the foundation, she was motivated to submit an application of her own. One of the attractive points of DFL was its close-knit feel. The foundation makes a point of ensuring that scholars never feel alone, and Wafa also found the application process was straightforward, lacking any overly complex components.
Her acceptance notice came while she was studying and so her delight was briefly delayed until she noticed the great news. On a personal level, Wafa is deeply grateful, describing her acceptance as the opening of a whole new world of opportunity that she can’t wait to dive into. Financially, she’s thankful for the scholarship’s comprehensive coverage, allowing her to focus entirely on her studies without any worry about the impact of its cost on her family.
Maryam Anabtawi is eighteen years old, hailing from Palestine. She will be enrolling in York University’s Biomedical Sciences program on the undergraduate level. Maryam’s curiosity about the sciences was present early on, naturally evolving into her more considering the field more deeply as her studies progressed. Her research led her to learning more about the industry surrounding prosthetics which became a key area of interest for her. In order to pursue it further, she realised she first needed to have a solid base understanding of biomedical science and found the program at York University to be a great fit. When she learned about the Daughters for Life Foundation’s scholarship program, Maryam was happy to see that it targeted a deeply underserved demographic. She felt strongly about the ongoing societal issue of the lack of opportunities for Arab women due to their often disadvantaged status in the professional world. She applied in 2021, finding the process accessible and felt encouraged that the scholarship was attainable. The comprehensive nature of the scholarship was also meaningful to Maryam, thankful that DFL in its long partnership with York University allowed her to focus on her studies. She received notice of her acceptance while she was at boarding school over email, describing the moment of joy and relief as one she won’t soon forget.
As she prepares to arrive in Toronto, her biggest hope is that her studies will allow her to return home, equipped with the skills and knowledge to assist victims of war in her community in Gaza who need prosthetics as a result of the ongoing conflicts. In high school, she wrote an essay about the sieges in Gaza that led to many injuries, incorporating and citing the statistics of limb or appendage loss. Alongside this heartfelt goal, she hopes to immerse herself in York
University’s campus culture, to meet new people, to navigate her newfound independence and to get to know herself as Maryam in this new chapter in her life.
Grace Hanna is a Syrian scholar pursuing her Masters’s in Computer Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB).
She’s a deeply passionate and driven student. She completed her undergraduate degree in Information and Electronic Systems but her interest in computers preceded her experience in higher education, stretching back to high school. She felt that the field was highly lacking in representing women and that there was a palpable gendered bias present. Her love for the field paired with a desire to prove people wrong pushed her forward with a mindset centred around the phrase “I can study that!”As she began looking into Masters’s programs, she fell in love with the program at ULB, believing that it would fill in all the gaps in her current understanding of computer science, allowing her to have a fully fleshed-out understanding ahead of jumping into the workforce.
This also led to her research process in tracking down a scholarship program that would be applicable to her. Upon coming across the Daughters for Life Foundation, she was very impressed to find that a foundation with such a goal existed. She was particularly happy to see that DFL made a point of investing in the capabilities of girls and the betterment of the lives of women. “This is exactly the thing I was to be [a part of],” She said, in reference to the way that DFL scholars have their academic experiences while relating to and being supported by the greater DFL family. Grace felt that her personal values perfectly aligned with DFL and that becoming a DFL would help her become a better person, in her own words. All of this spurred her to eventually submit her application. Once accepted, Grace visited DFL’s website and saw her photo displayed alongside her fellow scholars. It was then that it felt real to her that she’d made it. When asked about how the acceptance impacted her, Grace smiled brightly, saying that it was still too early to uncover how much opportunity lies ahead of her. She’s excited to find out, but in the meantime, the scholarship has had a transformative effect on her life.
“This is everything to me,” said Grace, “Definitely a life-changing experience.”
Once she arrives in Belgium, she’s hoping to participate in activities on campus related to the empowerment of women. Academically, she wants to gain more theoretical, practical and cultural experience. Personally, she wants to express herself and learn how to create projects related to supporting girls, and more about international women’s rights.
Nouhaila Bensghir is a Moroccan graduate student in the Political Science program, preparing to start her studies at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB). She is a highly motivated and eloquent student, sharing her passion for her academic field. From early on, Nouhaila was interested in the functions and structure of governing bodies. She was curious about public service, the impact of political decisions on the everyday life of citizens and the betterment of the government. This ongoing interest inspired her to pursue the study of Political Science past her undergraduate degree, further into the graduate level. While searching for the right program for her, she came upon ULB’s program. In a happy coincidence, Nouhaila also discovered the Daughters for Life Foundation through the Antwerp University website, another university she was looking into at the time.
Upon her discovery of the DFL foundation, she was moved and impressed by its goal, feeling that it offered a great opportunity for young girls and that it was a great thing toinvest her time into applying to.
After Nouhaila received her acceptance from DFL, she expressed a great sense of gratitude. “I think,” She began during our interview, “if I didn’t have the scholarship [to fall back on], I wouldn’t have the chance to go to ULB.” She shared the immense relief she felt after finding out via email that she received the scholarship, improving even her mental health by releasing her from the stress of having to consider the cost of her studies. She celebrated the exciting moment with her family and is currently looking ahead to her travels to Brussels this fall.
Hadil Alhayek is a 23 year old hailing from Palestine who will be attending Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) starting this fall. She will be pursuing her Masters in Political Science, a subject of long-term interest for her that she chose to deepen her understanding of. Despite her prior interest, Hadil had some difficulty engaging with politics in the past due to the ongoing crisis in Palestine that defined the upbringings of her generation and generations prior. The subject is inextricably entangled with war and violence, and understandably, she did not want trauma to
serve as the basis of her identity. Nonetheless, Hadil found that it grew into something that became a big part of her values, that deeply influenced her view on the world and she began to love the study of politics over time as a coping mechanism and to regain agency.
Hadil shared that she initially heard of the Daughters for Life Foundation in the past from a friend who became a DFL alum and kept up with the foundation’s activities ever since, finding that the mission of DFL aligned with her values. She was also deeply moved by the life story of DFL’s founder, Dr. Abuelaish, connecting with both the heartbreak and the hope embedded within. She made the ultimate decision to apply to the scholarship program. The application process was streamlined thanks to its clear timeframe and outline of contents, but she felt anxious during the screening period. Thankfully, Hadil was delighted by the surprise of an invitation to attend a third interview and went on to secure her position as a final candidate.
Upon receipt of her email confirmation that she was, indeed, accepted as one of DFL’s newest scholars, she was elated as she’d been hoping for such an email for several days. Gratitude is still her foremost response as she gears up to travel to Belgium. She expressed her thankfulness for the opportunity in general as it provides her with a big safety net and relieves her of the need to make ends meet so she can continue her studies. “It’s one thing to live abroad,” She said, “[But] it’s [another] thing to manage your finances alone.”
Since Hadil has some experience as an international scholar studying abroad, she’s hoping to deepen her previous experience. She’s very excited to attend ULB which is situated in the capital city of the European Union (EU), Brussels. She’s looking very forward to getting to know the city and the many laws of the EU including immigration law and policy. We’re so excited to be by Hadil’s side through her upcoming journey and can’t wait to welcome her to DFL!
All the scholars will soon be flying off to Brussels and Toronto from their home countries to embark on this new chapter of their lives, some travelling internationally for the very first time while others return to familiar cities but with the safety net of their scholarship and the chance to make more of their experience. As we prepare to welcome them, we’re also just as excited as they are to be there over the course of their studies and all that this experience brings them.