BY DAY, she teaches English in the poorest university in East Timor. By night, she works with children and on weekends teaches East Timorese how to be English teachers. Dr Vahideh Hosseini has spent most of her life devoted to helping people in communities around the world and this week was honoured with a Premier's Community Service Award, awarded to her by local MP Thomas George.
"I'm shocked and surprised and I've never been happier in my life," Dr Hosseini said. "I'm grateful to be here and of service to community."
Mr George applied for the award for her in 2010 when she was working for the Red Cross, managing disaster response, but it's only now that she's back visiting Australia from East Timor that Mr George was able to hand her the award.
"The award is in recognition and appreciation of her outstanding contribution to the community," Mr George said. "After her recent work in East Timor, now she needs a bigger award."
After working with the Red Cross for 18 years, Dr Hosseini , who is a doctor of economics, was encouraged to go to East Timor by Mr George and Page MP Janelle Saffin .
"They all told me your place is East Timor," Dr Hosseini said. "The East Timorese long for knowledge - English is their passbook to a job and a future. They are a generous sharing people and I'd like to stay there long term."
When she first arrived in East Timor, she built a youth centre with a small team of unemployed youth which resulted in them all getting jobs. Now, she and her husband lecture voluntarily at Unital - a university which has 4000 students and only two very basic toilets.
"The classrooms are a mess and there's hardly any chairs," Dr Hosseini said. " I'm working with the Dean to change how the university operates and to get a canteen built there. When I first started, they were burning rubbish every day while students were studying, and it was causing a health issue, but now they wait till classes are over. If anyone wants to visit East Timor and help her in her work, Dr Hosseini is happy to show them around and put them to work to build what is needed. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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