Waimea Soroptimist Club member Barbara Bird, and 2017 education grant recipient Ashleigh Dwyer. Photo: Judene Edgar.

Education grants making a huge difference


Ashleigh Dwyer’s eldest children don’t get to complain to their Mum about going to school because she goes to school too.

While her three children, aged nine, seven and two, think that it’s a bit of a novelty that Mum goes to school, Ashleigh says that she was really apprehensive initially.

“I left school at 15, so going back was such a big step and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it through,” she says. “But one of the things I’ve learnt is that you have a lot more strength than you realise.”

The young mum of three was the lucky recipient of this year’s Soroptimist Club of Waimea education grant for women over 25 who are obtaining their first tertiary qualification.

She says that the grant made a big difference and took a lot of pressure off.

“I was so happy when I got the call,” says Ashleigh. “It felt amazing, I did a happy dance.”

President Lynne Ehau says that the club undertakes a range of fundraising events throughout the year to help women and children.

“We support a number of community activities and charities such as hosting a Pink Ribbon breakfast for the Cancer Society, providing meals for Ma’s House, and making afternoon teas for the Alzheimer’s group,” says Lynne.

Their main fund-raising event is the ‘Evening of Fashion’, which was held this year at the Richmond New Life Centre in September.

Proceeds from the evening go towards providing the $2500 education grant.

“We like to keep in touch with the grant recipients and follow their progress,” says Lynne. “Seeing the difference that it makes and how much they grow is so rewarding.”

Soroptimist member Barbara Bird, who has kept in touch with Ashleigh, says that Ashleigh interviewed well and deserved the grant.

“Ashleigh is exactly what our scholarship stands for,” says Barbara. “It’s about a hand up, not a hand out.”

Ashleigh is finishing her final assessments in the third year of her four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree at NMIT.

She also has recently completed an 18-week with Family Works, part of Presbyterian Support. Once she has completed her degree, Ashleigh is hoping to continue working with families in the community.

“I’m really looking forward to graduating because it’s been a real journey for all of us,” says Ashleigh.

Her advice for anyone contemplating going back to study is “just do it”.

The Soroptimist education grants are for women over 25 undertaking their first tertiary qualification.

Applications can be obtained from siwaimea@siswp.org.