News at Medicine - April 2019 - Graduate student named YWCA woman of distinction


Graduate student named YWCA woman of distinction
April 4, 2019
Nabila Qureshi wants to challenge the perception that people have of refugees. Qureshi started volunteering with refugee families three years ago and it’s gone from making deliveries, to making friends.
 

“When you actually meet a family, that’s when you realize there’s more to them than just words that are printed in an article which may just highlight what that refugee is going through. When you meet them you realize they are individuals just like us; just like me and you and they just happen to be experiencing unfortunate events.”
 
For her volunteer work, Qureshi was recently awarded a YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Community and Social Development. A graduate student in the Division of Community Health and Humanities, her research focuses on refugee youth’s early resettlement experiences in St. John’s.
 
According the YWCA website, the award is given to a woman who is ‘helping to build a strong community by making positive change and advocating for enhanced quality of life for all, including those who face disadvantages/challenges.’
 
In 2015, the Association for New Canadians put out a call for volunteers with Syrians arriving in St. John’s. Qureshi’s involvement was basic at first; delivering donations to families, etc. In January 2016, she went with another volunteer to a family’s home. She ended up getting to know that family very well.
Then in 2016, she spent the year meeting new families, primarily Syrians; going to their houses and socializing, giving them information about what life is like in St. John’s, assuring them they’re in a safe place.
 
After that, her responsibilities diversified and she started volunteering with the Refugee Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC) teaching English to newcomers to St. John’s. Not just refugees, but also temporary foreign workers, and others. A friend, a recent masters in computer science graduate, Kunal Dhir, nominated her for the award. He had observed her volunteering work over the past three years and thought she deserved it. Qureshi says Jose Rivera, director of RIAC, and Darrell Power, host of Radio RIAC, wrote references that were imperative to the award as well.
 
The night Qureshi received the award, she was acting in a play called Remnants about women’s stories on the day of the Triangle Factory fire, in 1911 New York. At the end of play, her parents, who were at the ceremony on her behalf, sent her a message that she’d won.
 
“While I feel elated to have won this award, I can’t help but remind myself that there were 33 other nominees who deserved it just as much as I did. These are individuals who have created, sustained, embellished, and improved themselves, and those around them in their respective fields of work. These are women who have devoted a considerable amount of time to persevere with their causes, and to be included amongst them is a feat no less than receiving the award.”
 
“I am convinced that any woman, or anybody for that matter, has the capacity to create and bring change, whatever it may be, or however big or small it may be,” Qureshi said. “An incessantly burning flame, regardless of its size and ferocity, ignites from a spark, and each and every one of us has a spark within us.”