The benevolence of a family grieving for their daughter has provided a life-changing international study experience for Charles Sturt University (CSU) student Kaitlyn Weller, which in turn has inspired her to help others.
“Late last year I spent two weeks in Zambia and Zimbabwe participating in conservation research and education programs,” Kaitlyn said.
“We were involved in monitoring the behaviour and social interaction of the Dambwa lion pride as part of the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT). The aim is to see how the cubs, born from captive lions but raised by the pride, behave in the natural environment to see if they can be released into the wild.
“A highlight for me was being part of the conservation education programs that ALERT runs in the local community.
“The smiles on the children’s faces is something that stands out and it was amazing to be able see how happy, grateful and appreciative they are with how little they have. It changed my outlook on life and made me value my educational opportunities even more.
“I want to volunteer to be part of more programs with a purpose, programs that are able to help others, whether that’s people or animals.”
Kaitlyn’s trip was made possible by one of two CSU Foundation scholarships honouring the memory of Alexandra Catherine Henderson, a CSU equine science student who died in a farm accident in Western Australia in 2017.
Alexandra’s family established the annual scholarship fund to give CSU students who are passionate about animals the opportunity to undertake international work placements.
“The scholarship has allowed us to provide Ally with a meaningful legacy benefiting students and doing the work that she had planned to do, inspired by her own experience in Zimbabwe with wildlife and children,” said her mother Ms Dorothy Henderson.
In March 2017, Alexandra spent time at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe where she was able to work with horses and wildlife as part of a rehabilitation program.
Alexandra thoroughly enjoyed her time there, and was preparing her own application to return to Africa via the CSU Global Africa Experience in 2017. She was determined to have a positive impact on the world, and by enabling other students to learn and do the work she wanted to do herself, her family will be able to enable her goals to be fulfilled even though she is not here to savour them.
That generosity at a time of grief has made a world of difference to Kaitlyn.
“Last year it was financially difficult so being awarded the scholarship made the whole trip possible and I was able to extend my stay for a week to gain more skills and be a part of an amazing community,” Kaitlyn said.
She’s now encouraging her peers at CSU to broaden their horizons by undertaking international study experiences like the program in Africa.
“It may sound like a cliché but it really is life-changing and you will gain so much, whether that’s researching or being part of the effort to educate kids – it’s all worthwhile,” Kaitlyn said.