In both her professional and personal ambitions, Tel Aviv University nursing student Wudnesh Wolde Giorgis is driven by a passion for helping others and especially those in need.
“I chose to study nursing so I can help people in times of difficulty; it’s a privilege for me,” she says, as she completes her undergraduate degree in nursing studies at the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions. “I grew up in a family that places a great emphasis on giving and caring for others. It’s part of who I am.”
Giorgis, 26, is one of nine siblings and the first in her family to pursue higher education. She was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah to Israel with her family when she was five. They settled in the central city of Rishon Lezion, where Giorigs says she had a typical Israeli upbringing, going through the public education system before serving in the IDF.
To help her achieve her academic goals, Giorgis received a scholarship backed by French philanthropists Andre and Thérèse Harari. The scholarship fund provides full degree support for 20 TAU students of Ethiopian descent each year. The Hararis’ family foundation established the scholarship program at TAU in the 2017-2018 academic year in association with the French Judaism Foundation and French Friends of TAU.
“Their support isn’t just limited to the duration of time at the University; it’s personally meaningful and can change the whole life of the person who receives it,” Giorgis says. “They enabled me to focus on my studies in peace without worrying about the financial side of things.”
After completing her military service, she set her sights on pursuing a university education. Giorgis worked various jobs since high school and has worked nights as a security officer throughout her studies The scholarship, she says, enables her to take fewer work shifts than she would have to in order to cover her living expenses apart from tuition.
“My parents are my biggest cheerleaders. I’m so grateful for their support and cherish everything they’ve done for me throughout the years,” she says. “Still, they have a lot to look out for at home and there aren’t many extra finances.”
Andre Harari explains that upon the establishment of their family foundation in 2017, “we rapidly identified the obstacles many Israeli-Ethiopian students face in pursuing higher education, and were quite astonished by the difficulties they encountered, due in particular to the low financial income of their families.
“We felt a sense of urgency to promote their access and social integration in higher education while also offering them financial support,” he says. “Our scholarship program aims to increase their low representation within the general student body and to enable them to pursue paths of excellence for their future professional life.”
Giorgis explains that while she has received several scholarships, this one stands out due to the donors’ personal involvement.
“The Hararis are amazing, and their support extends far beyond the financial aspects,” she exclaims. “They visit us on campus each year. They really want their scholarship recipients to succeed. I appreciate how much they care.”
Beyond her scholarship, Giorgis received an additional stipend from the Hararis during the height of COVID-19 to assist with living costs while campus shuttered and courses went completely online.
“Their support makes a lasting impact from the recipient’s early days in academia to their professional establishment,” she says. “It enables recipients to build a solid educational background and professional success so they can fulfill their biggest dreams and support themselves and their family, and even help those around them.”
Andre Harari adds: “We are so happy and proud to have accompanied Wudnesh throughout the four years of her bachelor’s in nursing. We have always enjoyed hearing about her academic progress and future aspirations.”
Following her graduation and certification, Giorgis hopes to work in a demanding specialty such as intensive care or maternity nursing.
“By far, the most incredible experience during my studies was witnessing a birth in the maternity ward during clinical training at the hospital,” she recalls.
In addition to clinical practice, she also hopes to eventually pursue advanced degrees up to a PhD.
“It’s something I’ve really set my sights on because I believe it’s up to us in nursing to advance the field with further research and understanding,” she says. “People like the Hararis help make it possible.”
The impact of the Hararis’ contributions and personal engagement with the students they support has inspired Giorgis to help society in other ways as well: “I hope to be on the giving side of philanthropy one day.”
– By Julie Steigerwald