Since 1978, WUSC has supported over 1,700 refugee youth to resettle in Canada and continue their post-secondary education. Though they have lived many shared experiences as refugees, every one of these students has their own unique story.
On Friday, the Washington Post shared Ayan Abdi’s story. Ayan is one of the students to be accepted to WUSC’s Student Refugee Program for the 2018/2019 academic year.
Growing up in the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, Ayan had very few opportunities to change her life’s circumstances. We are honoured to provide her with this pathway to resettlement and the opportunity to continue her education in Canada.
Interwoven in Ayan’s story, however, is that of her best friend, Maryan Hassan. Maryan’s is a very different story. She is one of the thousands of refugee students who applied for the Student Refugee Program this year but, unfortunately, was not accepted.
Maryan’s story is a heartbreaking one. And it is one that we encounter year after year as we recruit the next cohort for the Student Refugee Program.
For every student we support through the program, there are thousands more bright, talented young refugees for whom we do not have enough placements. This year, over 2,000 refugees applied. But we currently only have spaces for 130 students.
We know more can be done. And you can help.
How the Student Refugee Program Works
For nearly forty years, WUSC has leveraged Canada’s unique Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program which enables individuals and organizations to sponsor refugees.
Our program is the only one to partner with Canada’s leading universities, colleges, and CEGEPs to provide sponsorship opportunities to refugee youth who seek to continue their post-secondary education in Canada.
We work with our post-secondary partners to cover the costs associated with the first year of sponsorship. Over the decades, many different models have been created to reflect the different institutional contexts of our partners. One of the most common (and sustainable) models of support is through a student levy in which nearly all students of the institution contribute a small amount per year. Scholarships, tuition waivers, residence waivers, and meal plan waivers are other ways our partners provide support. Fundraising among students, staff, and faculty members – as well as the broader community – is another important tool.
Crucial to the program’s success is its unique youth-to-youth model of sponsorship. Our Local Committee members – present on over 80 campuses across the country – provide critical academic and social support to their peers through the program. Many of our Local Committee members are former refugees themselves who first came to Canada through the Student Refugee Program.
How You can Help
We know the Canadian – and global – post-secondary community wants to do more to respond to the global refugee crisis. In 2016/2017, our Student Refugee Program grew by 63%. However, not all of these commitments have been sustainable. This year, the number of placements available dropped by 14% from the year prior.
WUSC has been working with partners and donors to create more opportunities in Canada and internationally. Together, we hope to provide more placements to refugee youth like Maryan.
Here are some ways you can help provide more opportunities to refugee youth:
- As a student or employee of a Canadian university, college, or CEGEP: Get involved with the Local Committee on your campus or support their fundraising efforts. Don’t have a Local Committee? Start one! Click here to find out more.
- As an alumni or community member in Canada: Reach out to your alma mater or your local university, college, or CEGEP and let them know you want to help. Click here to see a map of our active Local Committees. You can also make a difference wherever you are by helping to foster more welcoming communities for newcomers in Canada.
- Donate to the Student Refugee Program.
- If you live outside Canada, write to your government officials and urge them to consider adopting Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program or introducing educational pathways for refugees. You can also help raise awareness among post-secondary institutions in your community about the critical role they can play in responding to the global refugee crisis.
We are all looking forward to welcoming Ayan to Canada next year. In the meantime, she and the other students sponsored by WUSC for 2018/2019 will be busy attending language courses, computer training, and other classes aimed at preparing them for life in Canada.
As for Maryan, we sincerely hope that she finds another way out of the refugee camp. If not, we hope that she has the courage to apply again next year. And we hope that with your support, a space will be available to her.