It's ok to be different

Mariam Ajang wishes she was more comfortable being herself when she was younger.

“Looking around I didn’t see anyone that looked like me, and I really tried to mould myself into an Australian girl” she says.

At two years old Mariam arrived in Brisbane from a Kenyan refugee camp, with her mother and five older brothers. Fleeing civil war in South Sudan, Mariam’s mother was determined to give her children a better life in Australia.

But not speaking English proved to be a real barrier for young Mariam, who desperately wanted to fit in. “Language is such a big thing, especially when you don’t speak it. You really notice how pushed into the shadows you are,” she reveals.

Not only did she overcome the language barrier by taking home endless books and practicing her reading and writing, but Mariam embraced every opportunity to get involved at school, from sport to music. She says it all helped build her confidence.

As a year 12 student she also undertook a school-based internship with Origin Energy’s Brisbane office, through a partnership with the Beacon Foundation. Mariam now has a Certificate III in Business as well as her Year 12 qualifications to be proud of.

Mariam’s success doesn’t stop there. She is now at university, studying paramedicine. “If you told me when I first came to Australia that I’d do all the things I’ve done, I would have looked at you crazy,” she says.

Hear her story below:

In 2020 we celebrated 10 years of philanthropy. Thanks to the work of our partners, with our support, more than 62,000 young Australians have used education to become the best that they can be.

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