It’s hard to see someone you love suffer. But sometimes sad situations and personal loss inspire a deep commitment to helping others.

November 25, 2020

Salimah 
Afifah was born in Indonesia, where she lived with her grandmother for 14 years on the island of Java. Her grandmother had Type 2 diabetes, and Afifah watched and worried as this chronic disease progressed.

“We were in a remote area where there wasn’t a lot of knowledge about how to control the disease,” she said. “Grandma relied heavily on medications to control her sugar levels, but she still ate fried foods and often we’d have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” 

Diabetes led to swollen legs. Kidney problems. Eye damage. Afifah began to seek information that might help. She became fascinated with the ways nutrition can help prevent or mitigate disease.

In the end, diabetes-related complications took the life of Afifah’s grandmother. But now Afifah is pursuing a career as a physician assistant so she can help other people enjoy long, healthy lives.

Her stepfather came from Oregon, and after Afifah finished high school in 2018, she moved to Gresham, eager to connect with his side of the family and continue her education. As she wrapped up two years of community college, she looked for the best nutrition program in the state. Her step-grandmother’s alma mater, OSU, fit the bill. 

Afifah is one of the first recipients of a scholarship created through the OSU Scholarship Match. “I am deeply appreciative of the support,” she said. “This scholarship lightens my financial burden, which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school, learning.”

The scholarship is also helping to protect the health of her family. During community college, Afifah worked two jobs. She’s glad not to be working in retail now, since she’s living with her step-grandparents and wants to minimize their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Afifah had hoped to live in Corvallis this year. The coronavirus changed that plan, but she never considered slowing her educational journey. She is more determined than ever to achieve her ambitions. 

“The pandemic has given students the opportunity to reflect on what they really want to do in life,” she said. “I want to thank the donors whose generosity is allowing me to take a step closer to my goals. Their belief in students inspires me to continue my studies and to help others.”

This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Oregon Stater. Read the full issue online.