BEAUFORT ambulance officer Ghanieh Daghagheleh's grandmother died before her eyes in Iran, where only health professionals were equipped with first aid and CPR.
As a refugee arriving in Australia by boat, Ms Daghagheleh said it was a fearful journey for those who could not swim.
Personal experience fuels the 24-year-old's determination to help others and share her story in a bid to promote seemingly simple skills that she said could make a huge difference in people's lives.
Ms Daghagheleh, who is studying nursing and midwifery in Melbourne, arrived in Beaufort as Ambulance Community Officer via her training to become a lifeguard. The work in Beaufort, working alongside paramedics, has given Ms Daghagheleh a completely fresh perspective on helping others.
Nothing is more valuable than life and help can be as simple as skills like CPR and opening airways.Ghanieh Daghagheleh
"Beaufort is a beautiful place and I love working in the community," Ms Daghagheleh said. "People are different - it's a smaller community and easier to connect with people...My goal is to help my community and give back. Nothing is more valuable than life and help can be as simple as skills like CPR and opening airways."
Ms Daghagheleh is one of six graduates from Ambulance Victoria and Life Saving Victoria's first joint multicultural employment pathways program.
The program trains young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to work as ambulance officers in regional communities where case loads are low and not staffed round-the-clock.
When she heard about the opportunity, Ms Daghagheleh jumped at the chance. As a child, Ms Daghagheleh dreamt of becoming a doctor but, since arriving in Australia six years ago, she realised there were other ways to help the community.
This was why one day, in a VCAL class, Ms Daghagheleh put her hand up to join a lifeguard program when no other female felt comfortable doing so.
Ms Daghagheleh became the first Iranian refugee qualified lifeguard in Australia.
They said I should have stayed behind with the other girls but just because I am female doesn't mean I cannot do the class.Ghanieh Daghagheleh
"I came here by boat. I crossed two oceans. I know how to swim because when I was little I would go with my Dad to the pool and I was self-taught - I knew I'd be okay if something happened to the boat," Ms Daghagheleh said.
"Swimming is my hobby and I love it but others were scared....I was the only girl in the class in a pool with 12 men. They said I should have stayed behind with the other girls but just because I am female doesn't mean I cannot do the class."
The ACO program has two shifts as a responder and Ms Daghagheleh said it was incredibly flexible to fit around her university studies. Some mornings Ms Daghagheleh is up at 5am to be started in Beaufort by 8am but she loved every moment.
Already, Ms Daghagheleh is considering adding a paramedicine degree to her studies once she has finished her nursing and had a couple extra years' experience.
The first group of six ACOs to graduate from the program hail from Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar and Pakistan.
Life Saving Victoria CEO Nigel Taylor said the program built on LSV's multicultural water safety awareness programs to create career pathways into Victoria's emergency services.
LSV has worked with people from multicultural communities for more than a decade in creating pathways to lifeguarding and swim teaching at pools.
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