SOPHIE Stewart believes she has the responsibility to help disadvantaged people in the community.
The Burswood resident remembers her parents running a homeless shelter in Victoria Park.
“I grew up in Victoria Park and I remember seeing first-hand the social issues such alcoholism, substance abuse, mental health issues and how they were connected with the criminal justice system,” she said.
Ms Stewart (23) has taken it upon herself to help refugees, after running the Young Christian Students campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children from 2014 to 2016.
She was the founder of the Students for Refugees UWA while finishing her honours in political science and international relations and created the offshoot Swim for Refugees program, which runs on Saturdays at the university between February and June and October and December.
“It started after I had a friend from Afghanistan who loved to fish but she was worried about falling in the water and drowning,” she said.
“So much of our lives in WA happens around the water whether that’s near the Swan River, swimming at Cottesloe Beach or going to pool parties.
“It can be difficult to integrate as a new migrant if you don’t have those skills.
“It’s a joyful moment to see people having so much fun and seeing that shared experience of achievement. I never leave there not smiling.
“I believe that I have a responsibility to help the community because I’ve been lucky to be supported by my friends and family.”
Ms Stewart works as the campaign co-ordinator at Social Reinvestment WA, which is a coalition of 17 not-for-profit organisations which are working together to find solutions and advocate for closing the gap on Aboriginal incarceration.
Ms Stewart has been named as a finalist in the WA Youth Awards in the Community Leadership category.
“It’s really exciting and unexpected to be a finalist, I feel humbled,” she said.
The winners will be announced tomorrow.