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'We’re all human' – that’s the motto 17-year-old Walid Kurdi lives by and is a reason why he was today named Canterbury-Bankstown Young Citizen of the Year for 2019.
"My mother always told me it doesn’t matter what race, religion or gender someone is – we’re all human," the Bankstown resident said.
"And, I’ve never met a person as strong as my mother – she fled her war-torn home and settled in a foreign country; spoke almost no English; raised six children on her own; and she still volunteered and gave back to our local community however she could.
"If she can do it, I can too. I have even more capability, so it’s my duty to help however I can, human to human."
The Condell Park High School Captain has a leadership role in his school’s revolutionary program, Talk Time. It sees the Autism Support Unit students and a few mainstream students meet every day, to connect and practice speech in a safe space.
"The journey started more than two years ago, when I befriended an autistic boy who I really enjoyed hanging around and playing sport with," Walid said.
"He had difficulty communicating and couldn’t speak comfortably – even a simple hello was a struggle. I knew I had to help, so I found the teacher who organises Talk Time and said I didn’t want to graduate without being able to help my new friend. Now there’s no stopping him – he’s running to find me in the playground to say hi!"
Walid also assists the local Police Community Youth Club; Lighthouse Community Support Agency; Lebanese Muslim Association; and visits and helps pensioners, who live across the road from him.
"Many of them can’t speak English, so it’s difficult for them to do the simple things many of us take for granted, and they just don’t have anyone else to help them," he said.
"I lend a hand with property maintenance; help them clean; translate bills and other paperwork into Arabic, and explain what they mean; and even recommend local doctors and services.
"I recently helped one woman with her Australian citizenship application, using what I learnt in my Legal Studies class and also from my sister-in-law, who is an Immigration Officer."
Mayor Khal Asfour admitted he was in awe of Walid’s commitment.
"It’s so rare to find a young person who is as empathetic, patient and kind, with a drive so strong he gives up countless hours to make a real difference - Walid has all these qualities and more!"
27/01/2019 1:49 PM