By Amy Badry
World University Services of Canada is a national organization with chapters in numerous universities across campus. Focusing on human development through education and training, WUSC supports more than 50 student refugees that come to Canada each year pursuing post-secondary education.
“WUSC focuses on international development and tries to do this through education,” said WUSC co-chair Carol Chu. “The student refugee program is one of its main programs.”
The University of Calgary chapter was founded in 1988 Chu said in the that time it has sponsored about 20 students.
Every full-time student at the U of C supports the program by paying a levy of $2.25 included in yearly fees. Last year a referendum to increase the levy by $1 per full-time student was passed, bringing a second student refugee to the U of C. Money collected goes directly to supporting the refugee student on campus. The levy covers tuition, fees, housing, food and other day-to-day expenses. Each year, the student receives a decreasing amount as WUSC expects they will become better integrated into the community.
“By year four the student will receive only a couple thousand dollars,” said Chu. “They have the option to either raise the money by working or applying for student loans.”
“None of it is sent to the head organization. It stays on campus and is budgeted throughout a four-year period to help facilitate the students expenses,” said WUSC co-chair Dylan Jones. “This program is so unique. We all pay this small amount of money that you could lose in your couch and because we collectively do this it is enough to support a student over a four-year period.”
Financial support is not the only way WUSC helps new students, social support is also an important part of the organization.
Homestays, day trips to the mountains, touring the sights of Calgary and enjoying Canadian pastimes such as tobogganing are ways WUSC ensures new students feel comfortable in their new home.
Tuyisenge Celestin is the newest student to be sponsored. He arrived in August and is now taking a full course load at the U of C.
“It is a huge support,” said Celestin. “[The student refugee program] gives me the opportunity to come to the University of Calgary and study. They show me around, help me make new friends. There are a lot of social supports.”
WUSC has partnerships with three refugee camps in Africa — two in Kenya and one in Malawi. Celestin came from the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi.
“What is important about these partnerships is that it really helps speed up the process of things like immigration, getting documents and papers,” said Jones. “We have a partnership and system for getting those things in place.”
Still the process is long, explained Celestin. Educational qualifications, volunteer experience, merit and community contribution are all examined when applying.
“Many people apply but few are taken,” said Celestin, who is enjoying Calgary and his new home on campus.
“It is a new environment. Sometimes I miss home and the food I am use to,” said Celestin, “but still I am making new friends and I am adapting to the environment.”
WUSC boasts a 97 per cent graduation and success rate of sponsored students.
“The program is very helpful. It gives hope to many students from war-torn countries,” said Celestin. “It gives them hope to come and study and have a good future. So without the program I wouldn’t have come to Canada. I really appreciate it.”
“It is such a small contribution, why not,” said fourth-year international relations student Michel McLeod. “Especially if it is going to have such a significant impact on a persons life and education is the key to empowerment. It is meaningful and can have an impact, I totally support it.”
Celestin is appreciative of the program and asked students to continue supporting WUSC.
“I would like to thank students and ask them to continue as well in participating in this kindness,” said Celestin. “It is giving a light of hope to many hopeless students who are in the camps in different countries.”