Involved with WUSC for over five years, Ryerson University graduate and Local Committee member Ashley Korn traveled to Dzaleka, Malawi via Students Without Borders™ for a three month internship to work on the overseas Student Refugee Program process. A not so ordinary opportunity...
Coming up over the hill after walking eight kilometers to Dzaleka Refugee Camp, my skin is hot from the early morning sun. I can smell the burning coals of the fires and the roasting corn in the market. Every Tuesday is market day in Dzaleka and the camp residents sell their goods, from hot periperi peppers, to used clothing, to freshly baked bread. The market is busy with local Malawians and refugees buying fresh vegetables, and other things for the week. The opportunity to have some economic independence has a significant impact on the livelihoods of individuals, families and communities here.
Living and working at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp has exposed me to some of the challenges people face on a daily basis. Getting reliable census numbers on the Refugee Camp’s population is difficult, but it is estimated to be anywhere from 11, 000 to 17, 000 people. Those who seek refuge in the camp have fled persecution and conflict primarily from Rwanda, Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. Camp residents face hunger, lack of safety and security, as well as limited privacy, with many houses having several family members living within their walls. The average amount of time that people have lived in limbo here in Dzaleka is about 10 years.
Despite the hardships, struggles and adversity present within Dzaleka Refugee Camp, there is a sense of hope for a select few that apply and are accepted into the WUSC Student Refugee Program (SRP). The SRP resettles approximately 70 refugee youth between the ages of 18-25 from Kenya and Malawi on a yearly basis. These students are not only resettled to Canada as permanent residents on the path to becoming Canadian Citizens, but they are also accepted into Canadian Universities/colleges and are given financial support to attain Canadian post-secondary education.
Ashley walks through a local market on her way to work.
Since I arrived and began volunteering with the SRP I have developed a much stronger understanding of the intense competition and desperation that people have to face to get one of the 25 or so sought-after spaces in the program. Most of the successful applicants are young men, since access to education for young women has limitations based on their family responsibilities.
I have volunteered in the SRP in Canada for several years. Being in Dzaleka, working directly with the students, I can see the positive impact this program has on the youth, and their families. I met one family who has a brother that was resettled to Canada through the Student Refugee Program.
Having a family member in Canada has changed their lives here in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, since they receive regular remittances from him. With the extra financial support they are able to buy clothes for their young children and have a greater opportunity to supply their family with additional food options besides the monthly rations they receive from United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Every day I feel a mix of emotions while working in the camp in Malawi: joy, frustration, anger, hopelessness, satisfaction. I often struggle to comprehend the living standards that I see here in the camp and around Malawi. I am very proud to be contributing to the success of these ambitious youth, as they prepare for their new lives in Canada
Read more about Ashley’s time in Malawi on the SWB Blog