WUSC sponsors education for international students
When David Deng took his seat on his flight enroute to Canada from Kenya, he was presented with a plate of food he had never seen in his life. What turned out to be white beans was the first of many new things Deng would experience over the next four years as a sponsored student at the University of Saskatchewan.
Along with numerous other students, Deng has been sponsored through the U of S’ World University Service Canada Student Refugee Program. This program focuses specifically on empowerment through education.
WUSC is a Canadian non-profit organization that works towards education, empowerment and employment through partnering with several other non-government organizations around the world. Its head office in Ottawa selects students from a refugee camp in Kenya and places them in local chapters across Canada.
Faculty advisor Gabriela Mangano explained that “the U of S is part of WUSC and WUSC is a fundamental component of our university. We should not forget that together with Carleton University, we are considered founders of the [Student Refugee Program], being the second university in Canada to open its doors.”
WUSC provides the opportunity for sponsored students to become Canadian citizens, earn an education, bring their families to Canada or bring their new knowledge and skills back home to support their communities.
The Student Refugee Program’s goal is to provide education for refugees and an environment for Canadian students to “gain skills and build leadership qualities… which in turn enriches and develops the communities they’re living in, so there is a huge benefit on that side of things,” Jessica Brown, WUSC club president said. “It provides a really unique training program for university students to develop skills they maybe couldn’t elsewhere.”
Brown is confident that WUSC offers a unique combination of factors that make it so successful.
“WUSC is the only organization in the world that partners education with refugee sponsorship,” she said.
The U of S sponsors three students with tuition for 10 classes during their first year. The students come from countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to the university’s financial support, each undergraduate student pays $3.50 in their tuition to contribute to living expenses and necessities for the sponsored students.
Brown and the other executive club members — including student refugee program mentors Blanchard Kavakwa, Hassan Khalid and Mohamednoor Bain, treasurer Shafalta Basnyat and secretary Stephanie Deptuch — are responsible for facilitating mentorship for sponsored students, volunteer opportunities and a sense of community for the group as a whole.
WUSC has been present at the university since 1978 and in Canada since the 1920s. The U of S has sponsored over 75 students, some of whom have continued their education here on campus in many areas of study and have earned degrees in fields such as registered nursing and English. One student is currently in the process of publishing his first book, while another has studied petroleum engineering at the University of Regina.
Students can contribute to WUSC by volunteering and attending weekly meetings, held at 5 p.m. every Thursday in the International Student and Study Abroad Centre training room.
“There are a wealth of things [students] can get involved in, depending on what their interests are. They could work with new and old sponsored students with things like helping them with their homework, helping them apply for student loans,” Brown said. “They could also help them deal with various issues with the university and the Government of Canada.”
The club hosts several community-building and fundraising events during the year, specifically to welcome sponsored students and provide them with a Canadian experience. Students are encouraged to register in the upcoming Ride for Refuge event, a 25 kilometer cycling event to raise awareness and funds for WUSC on Oct. 4.
Another event, the Shine a Light gala and trivia night, will take place on Feb. 5 at Louis’ Pub, which is also a great opportunity for university students to volunteer. The focus of the night is to spread awareness on the disparity of educational opportunity between females and males and raise funds to provide females with the tools they need in refugee camps to earn the opportunity to come to Canada.
The club is also in the process of scheduling a trip during the fall semester to Regina to play trampoline dodgeball against the WUSC team from the U of R. All students are welcome to join and show their support.
Mangano said that “this year we have a really extraordinary local committee, completely devoted to our mission and full of enthusiasm. Each of these U of S volunteer students contributes significantly to the program, and they have already done a magnificent job with the preparation and the welcoming of our three new students”.
Students can contact WUSC through their Facebook page (WUSC UofS), online at wusc.usask.ca or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.