Combating Stigmas, Helping Others Thrive
Coming from the Israeli-Ethiopian community, TAU student Bat El Bogala is intimately familiar with the challenges surrounding mental health care among its population.
“My ultimate goal is to raise mental health awareness and help people in the Israeli-Ethiopian community, where the subject is taboo,” says Bogala, who recently finished her first year of a bachelor’s degree, double-majoring in psychology and English literature.
“I hope to apply my studies to become a clinical psychologist and combat the intergenerational stigma and feelings of shame which deter a lot of people from seeking mental health care,” she says. “It’s very important for me to help overcome this challenge so people don’t keep feeling like something is wrong with them for seeking help.”
Bogala is pursuing the first step toward her aspirations with a scholarship funded by French philanthropists André and Thérèse Harari. The Thérèse and André Harari Foundation funds a program which provides full degree support for a total of 20 TAU students of Ethiopian descent each year. It was established in association with the French Judaism Foundation and French Friends of TAU.
André Harari explains: "Our scholarship program aims to increase the low representation of Israeli-Ethiopian students within the general student body and to enable them to pursue paths of excellence for their future professional lives.”
"Students can count on our Foundation’s scholarship year after year until the end of their studies at TAU, provided (only) that they succeed in their yearly exams," he adds. "This means they receive support until their bachelor’s graduation and, if they decide to continue, through their master’s degree, and even their PhD. ”
“The scholarship alleviated a lot of the pressure of having to work to finance my studies,” says Bogala, who had worked since age 16. “It enabled me to breathe easy and place all my focus on my studies without having to be preoccupied with affording tuition, rent and living expenses.”
Bogala applied for the scholarship through ADMAS, the scholarships and support framework for Israeli-Ethiopians students at TAU, which is administered by the Dean of Students.
“Without the scholarship, I don’t think I would be able to pursue my degree as effectively as I can now and live so close to the University campus, which makes a difference,” says Bogala, who is originally from Yavne, a city south of Tel Aviv.
She adds that the scholarship gives her extra incentive to succeed in her studies, “to show the Hararis that I truly appreciate the support and am using it to the best of my ability.”
Gateway to Success
Bogala is the youngest of eight siblings and a first-generation university student. She was born in Israel after her parents and all but one older sibling made aliyah to Israel from Ethiopia.
“My parents made aliyah from Ethiopia, and it was always important to them that we succeed in our educations and continue to academia, which they see as the gateway to success and full integration into Israeli society,” she says.
In high school, Bogala participated in a program for gifted students. She points to her empathetic and curious nature for contributing to her interest in psychology as a way to understand herself and others.
“I was always the friend whom people came to for advice and to lend an ear for their problems,” she recalls.
Although she didn’t have any English language background growing up, she excelled in the subject and developed a passion for literature. She says her English literature studies at TAU greatly help her digest academic material related to psychology, which is mainly written in English.
Following her bachelor’s degree, Bogala plans to pursue a master’s degree and complete a four-year residency to become a licensed clinical psychologist.
She encourages aspiring students to seek financial aid opportunities, without hesitation, through the Dean of Students Office.
“I don’t take for granted the support my scholarship provides," she underscores. “I hope to one day be in a position to help others thrive and achieve their dreams as the Hararis have helped me.”
- By Julie Steigerwald