My name is Reem. I am a mature student at York University, one of 73 lucky students sponsored by the WUSC Student Refugee Program this year, and one of 1400 students sponsored by WUSC since 1978. I feel very fortunate to be here living safely, continuing my studies in Canada.
I am constantly thinking of my family, and all the Syrians who are suffering every minute because of the war around them. For the young generation to continue studying and build a life is an impossible thing as the crisis is horrific. WUSC is one of the few organizations giving real help to young refugees like myself trying to get an education and start a new life.
Getting my education has been the main goal in my life since I had to leave school at 14 to help support my family after my father left us. I had to help my mother who had health problems and couldn’t do it on her own.
In 2011, the revolution started and a new chapter in my life began. I was forced to quit the job I loved because I did not accept the dominance of the Assad government. Even though I had not said anything at that point, as a Syrian employee, the Assad regime considers you an enemy if do not say you approve of them. After losing my job, I couldn’t resist attending the protest and being part of the revolution.
Soon after, the situation got really dangerous in my city, Homs. I experienced a lot of violence and I consider myself lucky I did not get shot during the protests. At that time I was living alone. One day the electricity and water went off but people kept on the protests as the Assad tanks and soldiers were taking over the neighbourhood. For 14 hours they didn’t stop shooting, killing, and destroying. As my room was on the main street I witnessed everything. Many people got killed.
After the longest 14 hours in my life, the shooting stopped and I decided to go to my mother’s house in another area. I was caught by soldiers who treated me with disrespect and asked why I would dare to walk in the streets at that time. They searched my place and destroyed it, then took me to a facility where they held me for 10 hours until, fortunately, I was released. With no job, a record with the political investigators and the increasing of tension of the whole situation, I decided to flee the country - not only for my safety, for my family’s safety before mine. My brother was doing his compulsory military service and I was afraid of being arrested, which would lead to the arrest of all my brothers. The idea that I could be responsible for the torture and the death of someone dear was horrifying for me.
I went to Dubai, then Jordan, then Lebanon and worked on short contracts - illegally. I was trying to start a life and finish my high school studies because I knew I could not go to university without my high school education. There were no night classes and I could not afford tutors. I studied on my own for months and finally passed a test for high-school equivalency.
I went through very hard times, adjusting with the ugly reality around me. My income was barely enough to send some to my family and survive day-to-day. I was intensely depressed but always seeking an opportunity to start over. One day I found it! I saw a WUSC announcement about the Student Refugee Program. I immediately wrote the cover-letter and sent it along with the other required documents. Even though I was excited about this, my experiences taught me not to have high expectations.
Soon after I received a call from the Canadian embassy and they told me I was shortlisted for the SRP. It was an amazing feeling! The interview was too good to be true! I was treated with respect, admiration and appreciation - a treatment I didn’t receive in my own country! Yet I couldn’t get over my fear of disappointment. The whole process took several months where I was trying to hold on, and when I finally got my confirmation for the visa, I cried with happiness.
The SRP gave me the opportunity to continue my studies - and my life. WUSC opened a new possibility for me when everything was impossible. SRP gave me help and asked for nothing in return. It is like someone has given you a hand when no one else was around.
I believe I am blessed to have all what I have: a new chance in a country that respects women and humanity and I appreciate the diversity and the law systems that respect human freedom in Canada. It was very easy for me to adapt and things are going smoothly in university and my personal life. I only pray my family stay alive and well during this war, and that Syrians have their chance at living a decent life.
I am enjoying my studies in psychology and sociology very much. I am not exactly sure what work I will do and I may switch majors, but I am absolutely going to do something where I can help people. Please join me in giving back by donating to the SRP.
I was very happy to hear that WUSC is maximizing efforts so they can help more refugees to get education, as the number of Syrian refugees is increasing dramatically and help is urgently needed. I highly respect what this program has been able to do for me and for other students. With your assistance the SRP will help even more. I thank WUSC very much and I thank you donors who are making this help possible. I hope you will continue to support the SRP which gives hope for young students who are now refugees in parts of the world today.
Thank you for your donation to the Student Refugee Program.
P.S. – Your support to the SRP changes lives for the better. Please send your donation today.