Alam Mathiang was the star of the show at this year’s New England Institute of TAFE awards night on Saturday, winning two major awards and $2500 in prize money.
The 21-year-old studied agriculture at TAFE’s Armidale Campus in 2011 and took out the Primary Industries Award, as well as New England TAFE student of the year.
Alam said he was humbled to receive both awards.
“I was so happy and really surprised,” he said.
“I really have to thank my teachers; without their willingness, ability, generosity and knowledge to teach me, I would not have known anything about modern agriculture.”
Alam was chosen from a large number of TAFE students for his dedication to study as well as his amazing journey.
Born in war-torn South Sudan, Alam grew up in a small agricultural village. He moved to Uganda with his uncle, Wol Bol, when he was 11 after his village burnt down and its people were killed.
Alam and his uncle moved to Australia when he was 15 to escape the war that continues today in Sudan.
Since studying agriculture through Armidale’s TAFE, Alam has worked tirelessly to set up a community farm in his home
village in Sudan.
“I witnessed the lack of food security in my country so I felt I had a big responsibility being here,” Alam said. “I set up this
project to help my family and
others to have enough food to live.
“It has been going for one year now and I plan to use my prize-money to continue the plantation and expand so it can help not only my village but the whole region.
“My dream is that when people come to my village and region for refuge from the war, they can always find something to eat.”
New England Institute of TAFE director Paul Callaghan said they could not have picked a more inspiring role model for their student of the year.
“Where Alam stood out was his connection with his learning and life goals, and his commitment to continue his learning,” he said.
“He is just a marvellous ambassador of education and positivity in life really.
“We couldn’t have thought of a better person to demonstrate to the community and region what it’s all about in terms of the power of education and how it can change lives.”
Alam is continuing his agriculture studies through UNE. He is aiming to graduate by 2014.
“I am very blessed and look forward to working in Australian farming fields as well as bringing food security to my country of origin to restore strengths, hopes and keep my village dreams alive,” Alam said.