Annual Shine a Light Gala raises money for women and youth refugees

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The Shine a Light Gala on March 2, hosted by the World University Service of Canada group at the University of Saskatchewan, aims to raise money to provide higher education opportunities for young women in refugee camps. With the growing refugee population in Saskatoon, the event connects the campus to a wider cause by promoting education for those who may have a difficult time accessing it.

WUSC is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged youth around the world. The U of S WUSC committee is a part of the Student Refugee Program and has been involved in sponsoring refugee students who come to Canada for over 35 years.

Celestin Usengumuremyi, third-year regional and urban planning student, came to the U of S from Malawi’s Dzaleka refugee camp after he qualified for a post-secondary scholarship in 2013. Herefugeewelcome became an active member of the WUSC committee in 2014.

“I have been a member of WUSC since 2012 [coming] from Malawi’s Dzaleka refugee camp after qualifying for a post-secondary sponsorship to Canadian universities. The U of S seemed to be most pleased to welcome me as its new student as of August 2013. [In] 2014, I became an active member of WUSC committee, and as of now I am the co-ordinator,” Usengumuremyi said, in an email to the Sheaf.

Shine a Light Gala includes cocktails, a buffet and some exciting entertainment for all students to enjoy. Tickets were $25 for students, with proceeds contributing to purchasing solar lamps, school supplies and classes for women in refugee camps. With the existing inequalities women face in pursuing higher education, Usengumuremyi explains that despite the increased ticket prices — previously $15 — this event offers important opportunities for young women to achieve a higher education.

“Shine a Light is attached to WUSC SRP as a small branch that aims to raise the number of girls coming to Canada through WUSC to reach that of boys. However, its main aim is to raise the girls’ secondary and post-secondary school enrollment in general,” Usengumuremyi said.

He notes that this event is important for U of S students to attend because it allows them to reflect on their education and the opportunities they benefit from.

“[Students] are the ones who hold a deep understanding of the struggles [they need] to overcome to progress academically. It will help to remind U of S students to never take for granted the facilities and the great university they have that support their education,” Usengumuremyi said. “Someone in the refugee camp does not have these opportunities — no electricity, girls’ hygienic basics and education-prohibiting traditions — but they never give up.”

Shine a Light Gala is hosted across Canadian universities once a year and Usengumuremyi explains how it changes the lives of many.

“Shine a Light changes the lives of [more] than most of us ever imagine. Funds go to Kenyan refugee camps to help increase the number of educated girls. There are two refugee camps: Dadaab and Kakuma. Dadaab is the largest refugee camp in the world, hosting [276,945] refugees, which is almost the same population as that of Saskatoon. The Kakuma refugee camp hosts more than [160,000] refugees,” he said.

Usengumuremyi shares what he likes most about Shine a Light Gala.

“My favourite part about this event is that sometimes we have traditional performances and it reminds me of the traditional activities — dances and songs. It is also part of the students who came through WUSC and other former WUSC members re-uniting, catching up and sharing some improvements to be made,” he said.

Usengumuremyi encourages U of S students to attend, noting that this event is not only exciting but that students have the chance to take part in changing young women’s access to higher education.

“We raise a significant amount of funds that convey a remarkable change to the girls’ education level every year,” Usengumuremyi said. “So, I guess we should not think of how the ticket is expensive but rather think of how we are changing someone’s life forever.”

Natasha Hausermann

Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor