May 13, 2019Print | PDF
A Wilfrid Laurier University scholarship program for refugees continues to transform the lives of recipients nearly three decades after welcoming its first student.
The Student Refugee Scholarship Program, administered by Laurier International, provides scholarship opportunities to refugee youth from around the world. The program is offered in partnership with World University Service Canada (WUSC), a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing education, employment and empowerment opportunities to marginalized and excluded youth.
Since 1991, Laurier has welcomed 25 refugee students through the program, including four students at the university’s Brantford campus, where the program has run since 2011.
Members of the Laurier community gathered at the Waterloo campus on April 30 to celebrate the Student Refugee Scholarship Program’s 28th anniversary, as well as recognize its founder, former dean of students Fred Nichols.
The Student Refugee Scholarship Program, which is supported through student ancillary fees, provides tuition and basic living expenses for refugees accepted into the program, many who have lived in refugee camps in Africa and the Middle East.
Each year through WUSC, Canada accepts about 130 refugee youth to attend university at one of 80 participating institutions. Laurier hosted nine WUSC students during the 2018-2019 academic year.
Ben Yang, director of global engagement at Laurier International, says the commitment by Laurier and its students to reach beyond borders and support refugee youth is something to be proud of.
“Support from Laurier for the Student Refugee Scholarship Program allows WUSC students, who come from destitute and often desperate situations, to become tremendous scholars, community leaders and contributing members of society,” says Yang. “This changes their lives in ways not otherwise possible.”
Mohamed Bille Hassan and Yvette Itangishaka, alumni of Laurier’s Student Refugee Scholarship Program, spoke during the celebration event.
Hassan came to study in Laurier’s Faculty of Science from Kenya’s overcrowded Dabaab Refugee Complex in 2007. While a full-time student, Hassan sponsored three of his siblings to come to Canada. In 2017, he completed a Master of Science degree and is currently a doctoral student in the University of Guelph’s Applied Psychology program.
“WUSC is a way for students to get out of the refugee camps,” says Hassan. “These students are committed to education despite the lack of resources they have access to.”
Itangishaka spent 10 years in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp before coming to Laurier in 2014 to study biochemistry and biotechnology.
“WUSC was my one and only plan,” says Itangishaka. “There was no Plan B.”
Itangishaka, who has completed her third year of undergraduate studies, returned to Kakuma to prepare Canada’s 2019-2020 WUSC student cohort. Some students in that cohort could arrive at Laurier in August.
To support refugee students, Laurier International operates WUSC student committees at the university’s Waterloo and Brantford campuses. The committees help students adjust to life in Canada and provide peer support. Both Hassan and Itangishaka volunteered with their campus WUSC committee while at Laurier.
Read more about the resiliency and academic achievements of Laurier’s WUSC scholars:
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