AFTER 37 years volunteering around the world empowering people by teaching them English, Lismore woman Dr Vahideh Hosseini has been awarded for transforming the lives of thousands.
Yesterday a very humble Dr Hosseini was presented with a Premier's Community Service Award by Member for Lismore Thomas George.
Born in Iran, Dr Hosseini said due to religious persecution she fled her home nation for the relative safety of India at a young age and was granted refugee status by the United Nations.
It was while she was studying economics at university in India that she began teaching Eng- lish to local children at night.
Dr Hosseini said in non-English-speaking countries such as Timor, where she volunteered recently, speaking English is the key to getting a job.
In all her travels, Dr Hosseini said she had not encountered people with such a passion for knowledge as the Timorese.
"I have been to so many countries around the world and I have never seen youth like in Timor," she said.
"They have so much desire to improve their own lives.
"They have lots of capacity but no knowledge, so I see my role as empowering them with that knowledge to make their lives better.
"I give them hope, I tell them when I was their age I started learning English and it changed my life."
Dr Hosseini said this sharing of knowledge had been taking place at the primi- tive Unital Uni- versity in Timor.
She said Unital Uni- versity had 4000 eager students, no internet or email and only two toilets.
Dr Hosseini has also volunteered in Australia, having come to the aid of those in need in Australia following Cyclone Larry in 2006, floods in 2007, the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria and others.
Mr George said he was honoured to present the Premier's Award, which was for Dr Hosseini's 18 years of service with Red Cross.
"She probably needs another award for all the wonderful work she has been doing over in Timor teaching people English," Mr George said.