When Jemma Dansey was a child, she would wear her grandmother’s old red nursing cape and pretend to be Little Red Riding Hood.
Now 21 and in the second year of a Bachelor of Nursing degree at Griffith University, Jemma still has that cape and uses it as inspiration for the career she feels she was destined to pursue.
Not that it’s been easy. Based in Ballina, Jemma’s family always struggled financially. Rising rents forced them to move house at least six times while Jemma was a child.
Yet as difficult as their circumstances were, the desire to help others also flowed within Jemma’s family.
It was the influence of Jemma’s late grandmother that saw the prospect of nursing take hold.
“My grandma was an army nurse. She passed away when I was three, but I’d wear her nurse’s cape and Mum always said that Grandma would be proud if I became a nurse, like her.
“I always knew that I wanted to work in health. Everyone said I’d make a great nurse because I was gentle and caring and put everyone’s needs before my own.”
Eventually gaining early entry into nursing at Griffith, Jemma hopes to specialise in crisis nursing or paediatrics. She also has a part-time job with Ozcare, working with aged care residents.
When the spectre of financial difficulty returned recently, Jemma considered moving back to Ballina, despite the constraints this would have placed on her study, work and placements.
Receiving a Griffith Futures Scholarship – awarded to students who are excelling at university despite financial or personal disadvantage -- has taken away those stresses.
Furthermore, Jemma has additional support through being paired with Mr Bill Horne as part of the Buddy Program linked to Griffith’s Staff Giving initiative. The business manager for the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Bill has been a Staff Giving participant for the past five years.
“I see myself as a people person and I like to help people who also help themselves,” says Bill. “In Jemma, I see someone who is striving to be the best person, and best nurse, that she can be.
“In my life, I’ve seen a lot of people in difficult situations and I know how a little help can make a huge impact. It not only makes a difference in that moment of giving, it makes a difference going forward. The domino effect is amazing and that is very much the case with Staff Giving.”
The next phase of Jemma’s studies will find her helping people in need in Vietnam.
“I’ll be going to a remote village in Vietnam for three weeks. I’m so looking forward to helping people who need basic health care. I’ll be riding a bike from the village to the hospital.”
As well as administering medication and other forms of treatment taken for granted in Australia, Jemma will take part in health education sessions for the villagers.
“I couldn’t consider this without my Griffith Futures Scholarship and the support of the Staff Giving Program,” says Jemma.
“I’d like to say a massive thank you. It’s been such a stress reliever. I’ve been able to focus on my studies and enjoy them without any anxiety in the back of my mind.
“I can’t thank all the staff givers enough for their amazing generosity.”