A Nottingham support worker, who filmed an emotional plea for help with her nursing degree fees, will now be able to train for her dream job after receiving tens of thousands of pounds in donations from the public.
Naana Aisha Issaka, 22, raised more than her target of £38,000 on GoFundMe after a video appeal posted on social media received hundreds of thousands of views, even prompting a donation from celebrity Cara Delevingne.
She said she was "shocked" to see the model’s donation, adding that the support of Delevingne and others has "basically changed my life".
"I was just so shocked, she also posted it so I’m so grateful and thankful… the public has just basically changed my life," Ms Issaka said.
She told ITV News Central: "This money has given me a chance, it has given me a chance to chase for my dreams, you know, to make things happen.
"I want to thank everyone from Cara to the public for all their donations - I am so grateful honestly!"
Ms Issaka said: "A few students have told their stories on GoFundMe pages about not being able to access student finance, but I didn’t think I’d be so lucky to get people to donate to me."
She has lived in the UK since she was 11, growing up in Ghana then going on to live in Spain for one year.
When she turned 18, her father’s visa no longer supported her, so she was detained by the Home Office before being granted leave to remain.
"Obviously at that time I didn’t have any money to pay a solicitor or pay for the Home Office fees, and my dad didn’t have the money to support himself, and then support me as well," she said.
Her visa status meant applications for funding from Student Finance England and a private student loans company were both unsuccessful, while an attempt at receiving a university scholarship also failed.
Ms Issaka then tried making a GoFundMe page along with a heartfelt plea on her Instagram page for donations.
The video went viral after being shared by a @imjustbait, a meme page with millions of followers, among many others.
She added: "I just took my phone and just expressed to people what was going on and how I was feeling… I think from them seeing my emotion and seeing my passion, I think that’s just basically what kicked everything off."
Ms Issaka began studying adult nursing at De Montfort University in Leicester in October 2020, with the aim of graduating in 2023.
She said the money will go towards her tuition, accommodation, and driver’s licence, which will help her travel to her university placement.
"My placement could be anywhere, I live in Nottingham but my placement is all the way in Loughborough," she said.
"I’m waking up around 4.20 in the morning just to be able to catch the bus to make it on time… I was planning to just try and get my driving sorted so that I’m able to commute.
"Obviously (with) placement you have to go physically unless you’re shielding or you’re at risk of catching Covid and being very ill… you have to do those practical hours before you can qualify."
Ms Issaka said the success of her fundraiser highlights the need to help aspiring healthcare workers who may not be able to access financial aid.
She added: "It’s not just me in this situation, there are so many students who are also wanting to do a healthcare-related degree, which obviously this country is screaming that they need, but are unable to do because of their circumstances.
"You have a lot of passionate nurses and passionate medical students who want to help people, who want to make a difference in people’s lives, who want to work for the NHS and are not able to because of the student finance situation.
"Especially the black and ethnic minority groups, we don’t have the privileges of having leave to remain or a British passport, does that mean that we can’t go to uni or can’t get a degree?"