2021 Winner

Helen Hamilton Scholarship

The 2021 and sixth award recipient of the Helen Hamilton Scholarship is Ms. Manju Gurung. The 2021 scholarship award of $1,300 is the largest Helen Hamilton scholarship awarded to date. Ms. Gurung is in her first year as a graduate student in the two-year Masters of Social Work Program at Westfield State University. While helping others is her goal in life, what is remarkable about Manju is her own life story.

Manju is a Nepali Bhutanese woman who fled her home with her family when she was about four years old due to political persecution and ethnicity. She lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for 18 years and came to the United States in 2009 as a refugee. She currently lives in the area with her six-year-old son while her husband still resides in Nepal with his family.

Since 2012, Manju has worked at a resettlement agency for Jewish Family Services and also worked as a Family Strengthening Interventionist at Boston College’s Children and Adversity Research Project.  She has also assisted the Department of Public Health by helping to perform therapeutic and training services to other refugees and immigrants.

As for her plans once she achieves her degree, she tells us: “With my MSW, I plan to continue working with the Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts to provide services for underserved, vulnerable populations. Working full-time and being a full-time student and technically single parent of a six-year-old child is very tough and, for some, an impossible state of being. But I am hanging in there and doing my best to achieve my dream of higher education while serving the community I belong to. If I am successful, and I expect to be, it will be my dream come true.” 

One of the key criteria to be considered for the Helen Hamilton Scholarship is that a student has “overcome obstacles in his/her life and contributed to a project that has improved the lives of others.” All of our award recipients to date have been deserving but I cannot think of anyone who has faced and overcome the obstacles Manju has.