Riverstone resident Jake Stalker knows first-hand that education is the key to overcoming adversity. The Swinburne University student is currently completing the third year of a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology), thanks to the financial support of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) in the form of a Long Tan Bursary. Inspired by this support, Jake has gone on to establish his own non-profit organisation, 1Step1Life, which aims to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth in Cambodia.
Growing up in a close-knit family Jake witnessed his father, a Vietnam Veteran, overcome adversity in battling with serious health issues. Whilst the family were all coping with worries arising from his brother’s overseas service in Afganistan, Jake was also personally struggling with anxiety.
After completing the HSC in 2012, Jake decided to take a break from his studies. He spent twelve months working in a t-shirt warehouse and living, in his own words, a “destructive life of work, drink, sleep, repeat”.
An eye-opening trip to Cambodia in 2013 was the start of Jake’s transformation. Inspired to pursue tertiary studies in psychology, Jake applied for, and was granted, a Long Tan Bursary administered through AVCAT on behalf of DVA. The $3,000 a year bursary provided motivation and financial stability for Jake to excel in his studies, achieving high grades in all of his university studies thus far.
In 2013, Jake also founded 1Step1Life, a not-for-profit organisation which provides free English education to people of all ages in Siam Reap, Cambodia and also funds scholarships for young Cambodian people to help realise their educational potential. As of 2016, 1Step1Life has provided tertiary scholarships for 14 young Cambodians and have recently partnered with the Cambodian Organisation for Social Development to build a school offering free English classes to more than 100 students.
In August this year, Jake’s brother, a returned serviceman from Afghanistan, will be leading a fundraising cycle tour in Cambodia. The ride will cover an 800 kilometre journey from Sihanoukville to Siam Reap. To find out more about this fundraising tour, including how to get involved, please visit this website.
Jake acknowledges that the Long Tan Bursary was instrumental in providing him the financial and moral support that he has needed to overcome adversity and succeed in his studies and change the lives of many people in Cambodia. In his opinion, everyone struggles with their own personal challenges in one way or another. That said, however, in Jake’s words “with a bit of good old support and education, anything is possible”.