Single mum and former refugee a national winner
SOFTLY spoken with a gentle demeanour, former refugee and single mum of four Jolie Kaja was nothing but humble when asked about her recent national award win.
The Coffs Harbour resident has been awarded the national Community Education Student of the Year just months after completing her assistant in nursing course.
"It feels very good, but I couldn't believe it,” Jolie said.
"I thought, many other students have really good English, so why did I get this award?”
Jolie's interest in aged care stems from her passion to help others, having worked as a Red Cross volunteer in her home country the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After war broke out in Congo about 10 years ago, she was forced to flee to Zambia.
The single mum travelled on foot with her four children to a refugee camp, where the family stayed for seven years before they resettled on the Coffs Coast.
"Coffs Harbour is good, my children like it too. It is quiet and there are good people,” Jolie said.
Upon arrival, Jolie took up an English course at TAFE and later began picking blueberries to support her children.
"When I finished my course, I applied to pick blueberries. I have four children and I just needed to look after them,” Jolie said.
It wasn't until a friend suggested more study that Jolie decided she wanted to work as a nurse in aged care.
"My friend told me, 'Jolie, maybe you can study hospitality or aged care' - because in Africa I was a volunteer in Red Cross,” Jolie said.
That's when she applied to study aged care at Coffs Coast Community College, and she is now working as an assistant in nursing at Saint Joseph's Aged Care facility.
In late August, Jolie was presented with the national Community Education Student of the Year award by Community Colleges Australia in front of Deputy Premier of NSW John Barilaro and Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser.