A lifeline for students in need

01 Jul 2024

Trisha Toangwera Aruhuri was a long way from home, studying a Master of Applied Anthropology and Development (Advanced) at The Australian National University (ANU), when she received the diagnosis that would change her life. The support of the ANU donor community has been crucial to her recovery.

Trisha journeyed from Vanuatu to Canberra with dreams of making a meaningful contribution to the world. During her first semester of study, she received an unexpected diagnosis.

“I could not even feel that lump that they found,” says Trisha. “But two weeks later, after some tests, the results came back positive for breast cancer.”

For Trisha, the cost of chemotherapy was so large it cast a shadow over her recovery – until a ray of hope emerged in the form of the Student Urgent Relief Fund (SURF).

Today, Trisha is cancer-free and able to reflect on her experiences.

“I made the right decision by coming to ANU because I don’t know if I would’ve received this kind of support anywhere else at this critical point in my life,” she says.

“I cannot thank them enough from the bottom of my heart, for their generosity. I’m blessed with this chance in life,” says Trisha.

In 2023, 364 donors committed $104,479 to SURF, a fund set up to support ANU students experiencing unexpected financial hardship. Along with the wider donor community, many ANU employees chose to donate to SURF through the University’s Workplace Giving Program. Other donors contributed as part of the University’s annual spring appeal, which called on the community to donate $23 for 2023 to SURF. Everyone who donated – whether students, staff or members of the broader ANU community – is united by the fact that they are making a tangible difference in the lives of students, when they need it most.

Last year, 29 students were supported by SURF grants, thanks to donor support. Students use funding from SURF to cover urgent expenses like groceries, laptops, public transport, and medical expenses. Applications are open throughout the year, with no deadlines, and every effort is made to process them in a timely manner so that students can receive the support they need as soon as possible.

Through the generosity of donors, Trisha received the financial assistance she needed and was able to continue her education at ANU – but her story is only one of many. With the ongoing support of donors and the ANU community, students experiencing unexpected financial hardship can continue to be supported with immediate financial assistance through SURF, allowing them to thrive at university and beyond.

SURF received the most support through our appeals in 2023, with the largest gift coming from Professor Ian McAllister through workplace giving.

SURF is crucial in situations like mine. When you’re faced with crisis and bills that you never thought you would have encountered, being able to get immediate support and help is a blessing.


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