By SALONEE MISTRY
A Monash University student who was left without a wheelchair following an electrical fault has been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers who have dug deep to help get her mobile again.
So far, more than $4000 has been raised via crowdfunding site gofundme to help Masters of Social Work student Shaz-Hermoine Sturk replace her broken wheelchair.
Ms Sturk, 27, was born with cerebral palsy and had been reliant on her motorised wheelchair for seven years, before it stopped working.
Ms Sturk said the wheelchair was integral in her independence and she needed it to help her “not feel disabled”.
“I am extremely overwhelmed by the response I have got and it has truly lifted my spirit,” Ms Sturk said.
“It is incredible how giving people have been and it has restored my faith in humanity. It is truly a good feeling.”
Ms Sturk said she was somewhat emotional over the support she received through the fundraiser, after finding replacing the chair was going to be costly and time consuming.
“I was on my way home after my last exam and suddenly the motor in my old chair burst and it started misbehaving,” she said.
“I asked to have it repaired by SWEP (state-wide equipment program). The company that makes and repairs them said they were going to write it off because it was beyond repair.
“The chair has been with me for so long that it almost feels like a part of me. The last week has been truly difficult.”
In the interim, Monash's Disability Support Services has helped Ms Sturk borrow a chair, but that is only a short-term solution.
A new power chair and assessment by an occupational therapist will cost $15,000. Ms Sturk has applied to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for money, but she faces a three-month wait before she can even meet with an NDIS representative.
On the flipside, it took less than a day for 30 people to chip in more than $4000 via her GoFundMe campaign.
Ms Sturk said if the money raised exceeded $15,000, she would donate the remainder to someone else in need of disability support.
If she does secure NDIS funding, Ms Sturk will use the money to maintain her new chair.
“I am so dependent on the chair that sometimes I resent it,” she said.
“But I want everyone who has contributed or will contribute to know that when I see the chair I will remember them and always be grateful to them.”
Two large, individual contributions from anonymous donors helped build the GoFundMe balance quickly. The first was a $1000 contribution and the second a $1500 donation.
Ms Sturk was also grateful for the messages of support being posted on the page.
An advocate for people living with disabilities, Ms Sturk hopes to expand into public policy after she graduates.
Administrators of the NDIS have been contacted for comment, but are yet to provide a response.