An infectious passion for knowledge
Unable to satisfy her desire to help people through medicine alone, Naba Masad Alfayadh founded a social enterprise that empowers young people through education.
Naba Masad Alfayadh knows the value and power of education. She has personally felt the transformative effects in her life. School opened her mind to new horizons and created unimagined opportunity. Classrooms helped her heal from the trauma of growing up in a war zone, where air bombardments caused nightmares and schools had more soldiers than teachers.
She moved to Australia from Iraq at the age of 10, when the process of unravelling the trauma began. Inspired by her mother to dream big, she translated educational opportunities into a medical degree, assisted by a Monash University Merit and Equity Scholarship.
Now, she’s a junior doctor at Eastern Health, where she’s considering specialising in emergency medicine or surgery.
“Without school I would not have recovered from the experiences of war,” she says. “It was school that made me aware that I could have a good life and inspired me to think about what I wanted to achieve. A strong motivation for me was wanting to reduce injustice and poverty in the world.”
Seeking ways to realise those aspirations, Alfayadh co-founded Happy Brain Education in 2016, a social enterprise dedicated to providing education for disadvantaged secondary school students. She was just 22 years old at the time.
Many of the students have incredible talent, which often goes unrecognised, Alfayadh says. “Part of our work also involves shaking up that system so that it can better respond when students fail to thrive.”
One of Happy Brain Education’s key initiatives is the Access Program, which recruits university students and young professionals to provide free, one-on-one tutoring for students from refugee backgrounds.
Monash students continue to be a driving force in Happy Brain Education, and the University also champions the cause by providing in-kind services, such as the use of classrooms. Monash also provided mentorship to Alfayadh as part of the Generator 2017 Accelerator Program, which the young philanthropist credits for helping refine the identity and strategy of her social enterprise.
From its base at Monash, Happy Brain Education has expanded to NSW, with preparations underway to launch in South Australia.
It also has an Empower Program that raises money for a different charity each year by running group classes and charging $10 per class to those who can afford it.
It was Monash students who, in 2016, first stepped up through the program to help raise the $147,000 needed for a six-year-old Iraqi child to receive medical care in Australia for a failing heart.
In 2018, the fundraising initiative is on behalf of UNICEF’s Innovation Labs. These are educational hubs located in Jordan’s refugee camps that mentor children in digital and entrepreneurial skills.
Arab-speaking volunteers within Happy Brain Education have also started to provide mentoring sessions via Skype.
“With demand so high, we need more tutors,” Alfayadh says. “The Monash volunteers have been incredible – they demonstrated that this work can have a huge impact, so I welcome anyone interested in social enterprise to contact us.”