Laurier Brantford hosted its very first mock refugee camp on Nov. 17. The idea for this event originated from the World University Service of Canada (WUSC). WUSC is an Ottawa-based non-profit organization that focuses on the international development and empowerment of students.
The event, which was hosted by Laurier Brantford’s committee of WUSC students, was held in the RCW lobby. A tent was set up in the lobby and inside were a few essential items, including pots, pans, a clothesline and a makeshift bed.
Dammee Sero, who works as the Student Refugee Program coordinator, hoped that the event would help raise awareness and bring attention to the turbulent lives of refugees. “I know some people have never heard about refugees” said Sero. The event coordinators also hoped that the impact of the event would resonate with students and encourage them to become more involved with WUSC.
Sero, who is also a Laurier International Student, has had first-hand experience with refugee camps. Her family had to flee their home country of Ethiopia during a period of violence and civil unrest. “I remember we left our house as a family. We didn’t tell anyone, and we didn’t take anything with us.” In the following years, her father and brother fled to Kenya, and soon after they were joined by Sero, her mother, and her remaining siblings. Sero and her family lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for ten years.
Aero explained that her day-to-day life in the camp consisted of helping out around the tent, going to school and spending countless hours doing homework. Dammee was lucky to be able to pursue her studies because her father, who was a school teacher, firmly believed in education. Many students, especially girls, had to drop out due to family responsibilities.
It was at the camp that Dammee first heard about the WUSC Student Refugee Program, which sponsors students as they pursue a post-secondary education in Canada. The process to apply and be accepted, Dammee recalls, was very competitive, “The most important factor is your grades. There is a minimum requirement that you have to meet. You must also be under 25 years old and have verified refugee status. Once you meet the initial requirements, you have to pass an English test, and then there’s an interview with different NGOs, including the United Nations”.
The Student Refugee Program accepts one new student every year, and the university sponsors the cost of tuition, living arrangements and textbooks. It also provides a support system for the new student.
Refugees are often violently persecuted due to their political, religious, racial, or national background. Currently, there has been an outcry for humanitarian support for Syrian refugees. An estimated nine million Syrians have been displaced due to the civil war.
While the refugee situation may seem dire at times, Laurier Brantford has taken on a leadership role. The university will be sponsoring a family of five Syrian refugees to settle in
Brantford. The university will be offering financial aid and language support, helping the children settle into school, and assisting the parents with employment. Cheers to the gift of giving.