WUSC student refugee program: life-changing education

Courtesy Dammee Sero

Wilfrid Laurier University has been working together with WUSC (World Universtiy Service of Canada), to support students in developing countries to enroll at universities in Canada. WUSC works with professionals, students, volunteers, and faculty and community leaders to find solutions and provide opportunities to the world’s most marginalized people. Each year, students apply for the Student Refugee Program and the program offers a scholarship that applies to students who live in refugee camps, have good grades and pass the Toeffl English test. The scholarship does not only mean “money”, it also includes a new beginning, a safer environment, and an education that is life—changing.

Dammee Sero is a sponsored student who currently attends Human Rights courses at Laurier Brantford. She is originally from Ethiopia, but her family went to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya to find shelter and security. Many other young students live under circumstances that make pursuing their dreams difficult.

“WUSC’s Student Refugee Program is primarily funded by student groups who are fundraising on campus. These groups raise approximately $1.5 million every year,” said Kristin Downey, Manager of Communication and Development.

University students donate four dollars each semester towards funding the education of the students; the donation is shown on their invoice on LORIS.

“It is a fabulous way of being part of something that is adding international experience towards our campus,” says Raag Patel, a second-year Laurier student. Raag has met Abdikarim, known as Abdi, who is a sponsor student that has successfully passed his first year at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“He is really friendly and I have seen him interacting with a lot of students on campus, he knows more people than me,” says Raag proudly.

Abdikarim Osmaan started his trip from Dadaab camp, a refugee camp near the border of Somalia.

Courtesy of Dammee Sero

“Whenever there is a crisis in Somalia, the people from Somalia come over and they have weapons,” says Abdikarim.

“No one says Abdikarim, I am known as Abdi,” he says happily while talking about his favourite things in Canada. “Canada is not that different from my camp, but I like the food, rice is my favorite.”

Abdi is in his second-year studying science. “In my camp there are not many teachers but we have school, my favorite subject is math and I was a teacher’s assistant in chemistry and math.”

“I am really happy that I can study safely and I am here in Canada,” says Dammee, who just started her trip at Laurier.

The refugee camps in Kenya support the refugees with water, food and shelter. “Every camp is different,” said Abdi. “My camp has people from the government; they would come and check on us.”

While Abdi is from a refugee camp that runs businesses and has stores, Dammee is from a place quieter and with less security; although she says that there are hotels, buildings, entertainment, and different communities.

Dammee and Abdikarim were chosen from a list of many applicants.

“Any of the students who apply and have good grades and pass the test, will for sure come to Canada, we just have to find someone who fits [in] to our university,” says Alexandra Carson, coordinator of the student group.

Kasey Furry who is the president of WUSC had a life changing experience with the sponsor students.

“I have learned about other cultures, and I have discovered my passion for working in the field of resettlement, which I plan to continue on with as a career after graduation.”

Between volunteering and the class schedule, the student group of Laurier Brantford has managed it all.

“My experience as the president of WUSC has been exceptionally rewarding and educational. Seeing the sponsor students arrive and watching them grow over their first year in Canada is heart-warming, and hearing their stories about hardships they have gone through is inspiring [me] to keep myself working harder,” says Kasey with the excitement for next year’s sponsor students.

The WUSC Student Refugee Program has raised a different voice in Laurier students. The students are giving more meaning to the term “education.” The education we receive at Wilfrid Laurier allows us to find our place in the real world but the education given to Dammee and Abdikarim has changed their lives, their environment, and their dreams.

“I wanted to become a scientist but now I wish to be a social worker”, says Dammee with a strong voice.

The sponsor students see it as a responsibility to do well at school.

“Their families back home are depending on them to come to Canada and become successful so the students can help their family have a better life,” says Alex.

The Laurier Brantford student community doesn’t see Dammee or Abdikarim as refugees or sponsor students.

“They speak fantastic English and they joke around, they aren’t different, they are Laurier students,” says Patel.

It is important that Laurier students know that they are a part of the WUSC program. Every donation allows us to welcome more students to our university. All Laurier students, faculty and anyone else interested in meeting Dammee and Abdikarim and knowing more about the WUSC Student Refugee Program will have the opportunity to do so on October 24th from 4-6 PM at the RCW building.

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