Maha Khaled Abadi

Maha grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. She is currently studying at UWC Atlantic College in Glamorgan, South Wales.

Do you believe that education is the single most important charitable donation anyone can give?

Absolutely. When it comes to helping people, I’m a big fan of the proverb; ‘Don’t give me a fish, teach me to fish’. It is so applicable to the Palestinian refugee camp situation. In the long term, it will do more good than food parcels. If all our children could get better opportunities like I am getting, we could change things for ourselves.

Tell us about your life in the refugee camps

Life in Beirut was not good because we were discriminated against a lot. I wouldn’t go into the city. We didn’t have good houses. The most beautiful house in the camp was a shack with three rooms – and that would be for the rich man of the camp! We had nothing to do, no activities. You can’t buy land or a car.

How did Cogito help turn your situation around?

There is a test we have to take at school when we’re 15, and I did well in it. I then got help from a foundation to try and find a place to study abroad, and I eventually came across UWC. Cogito agreed to pay my fees. It is a dream for everyone in my community to travel, but for most it is an impossibility. Without this grant, I could not have gone to a good school. Any qualifications I got would not have been important because, in Lebanon, I’d have been seen first and foremost as Palestinian.

Is your improved situation helping to inspire others back home?

So much. The fact that I got a place at UWC is the greatest happiness my family has ever had! What has happened to me can influence and inspire many people. My younger sister is 13 and she is now going to do the test I did, she is working so very hard. My friends are also looking at options and want to study at university. We never knew about any of this before. We never had any hope. This has given us so much belief.

What is your overall aim?

To help others. 100 per cent. I want to study medicine, then I want to give something back to my people. As Palestinians, we have the brains, the ideas, the plans, the love, the passion, the motivation – but we don’t have the money to make things happen. I want to make things happen. If we can do this on a wider scale, we will have many fishermen. We will grow old and help our own people rather than relying on others.

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