A new lease on life
Four Burmese refugees have moved out of obscurity and towards stability. The University of Regina’s chapter of World University Service of Canada recently played a hand in giving the four women the gift of permanent residence in Canada along with the opportunity to study at the U of R. Each year WUSC’s national office helps to import student refugees from across the globe that seek refuge throughout Canada. WUSC Regina boasts one of the country’s strongest local programs and this year has doubled their refugee capacity from 2011.
WUSC Regina, operating with around 12 to 15 student committee members, has been consistently helping refugees gain access to Canada and the U of R since 2000. Applicants from various refugee camps around the world endure a lengthy application process involving exams to prove their capabilities as a student. After the application process is finished, WUSC uses money from their student levy to bring the students into Canada where they receive permanent residence and enrollment at the U of R.
In previous years, WUSC simply helped refugees make the journey to Canada but would do little to stay in contact. The refugee would step foot on the U of R campus, they would receive financial help, and the rest was up to them. However, WUSC co-chair, Kya Kokott, notes that over the past few years that mentality has changed.
“Now we have a actual club that they can join,” she said. “I think the impact of the club has been huge. In past years WUSC would just pay for the student, sign their cheques, and move on. And they lost a lot of students; we don’t know what many of them are doing with their lives or where they ended up.
“But now that we are having club meetings every week they have a sense of community. If they have any questions about their classes or how to do something they now have a place to go for help. Now they have more of a chance because they have a family to help them with that.”
“When they are [in the refugee camp] they have nothing, so if there is any chance that we can save at least one human being, imagine the impact that could have.” – Kya Kokott
With the new commitment sustaining an active community on campus, the members of WUSC now believe that they can truly begin to watch the benefits of the program unfold.
“Our saying is that education changes the world,” said Kokott. “How is someone in a refugee camp supposed to change the world? How are they supposed to improve their situation when they have no resources? When they are [in the refugee camp] they have nothing, so if there is any chance that we can save at least one human being, imagine the impact that could have. Now with our club we can take an active role in helping their development and watching them reach their full potential.”
With the success of the WUSC Regina seemingly at an all-time high, organizers are expecting that Regina’s local chapter will see growth in the future. With that growth, they are hoping to provide increased educational opportunities for student across the university, not simply refugees.
“WUSC does do a lot of stuff with the refugees,” said Matt Lensen, also a co-chair of WUSC Regina. “But there are a lot of opportunities for us to help with leadership development and skills training among all students at the U of R. I myself had never done any work with immigration until I joined 2 years ago. It definitely gives students some opportunities to acquire skills they might not otherwise have.”
“I think that working with people who come from places like refugee camps is something that everyone should do, ” Kokott added. “It is both a rewarding experience for the refugees and for the members of WUSC. They can learn from us, and we can learn from them.”