2016 Liam McCarthy Scholarship Winner

by Zayni (Zaytun) Shah

Letter of Gratitude

2016 Liam McCarthy Scholarship


I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to PCI College for awarding me with the 2016 Liam McCarthy Scholarship.  It was an honour to have received this reward.


To become a counsellor was one of my unrequited dreams that I have given up on due to life's challenges; and with the generosity of the Liam McCarthy Scholarship, I have achieved this dream.  I am a single parent of two daughters and when I was awarded this scholarship, it felt that it was the result of a manifestation of hope that I carried for my family. 


I was working as a Receptionist at a Family Resource Centre and the aim of the organisation is to support the community to improve life for the local community with services, advice and assistance.  At the end of my contract, I search for new opportunities which included further training and development to continue to work in the community focussed sector.  In my search, I found PCI Certificate in Counselling course.  I enlisted with support of the people around me.  The journey was challenging, yet inspiring and a world opened, presenting me with the opportunity to fulfil a long-lost desire.  At the end of the course, I was convinced that I was meant to be a counsellor but unsure of how I could continue with the Degree programme.  It was during those days that the scholarship was promoted via email and without reservation, I sent my application.  Luck smiled upon me when I heard that I made the list of the ten finalists, and thereafter that I won the scholarship.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to elevate my career and eventually to gain


As a student, I found the balance between parenting and studies challenging; it was difficult to find a balance between course work and family life with its commitments and obligations.  The college provided the framework and structure that supported my process and the core tutors were vital to my processing of the course material.  In fact, all lecturers had impacted me in their unique and authentic ways.  I believe that I am a result of all their efforts and dedication.  They would often share their philosophies and practicalities of their work as counsellors and it added ‘context’ to the literature that we were learning.  Those interactions and exchanges were important to learning the material.  I found that working in groups equally powerful.  We had a large size group and with such rich diversity, that we were bound to hear about a different concept or understanding most times and that impacted my learning and view.  It suited me to learn this way for I am practical by nature and I enjoy working with my colleagues in triad/dyads, although I would initially resist.  Interacting outside of classroom was also part of the process of learning and I gained good friends in the process.  What I found extremely helpful was having the core tutor observe our ‘counselling’ each other and we exchanged feedback on the experience and learning.  I felt uncomfortable in front of my peers as it added pressure and I noticed that I moved away from being authentic and ‘performed’ instead.  I would’ve liked more of these nerve wrecking moments of observation without the audience.  In this manner, I could’ve learnt to let go of my ‘performance’ and restore my authenticity  Nevertheless, I am sure that without these frameworks, supports and interactions, I would have not graduated or be able to work in a career that I find very fulfilling.  


The scholarship set in motion events that enriched all our lives.  My eldest daughter was inspired when I received this award, as a consequence she continued her studies and completed her Degree in Social Works this year.  She intends to continue with her Masters (MSc) programme in the near future.  Her aim is to become a Social Worker and my achievement, gave her the confidence to chase her dreams.  I am currently working as a pre-accredited counsellor on a part-time basis in Kilkenny.  I find the work rewarding and I hope to continue with my learning as the MSc in Family Therapeutic Skills interests me as future studies.


Once again, thank you for your faith and confidence in me with your significant award.  I am committed to continuing my journey to become a fully accredited psychotherapist/counsellor and successful ambassador of the Liam McCarthy Scholarship.


With sincere gratitude,


Ms Zayni (Zaytun) Shah

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