By: Nathaniel Athian Deng, former sponsored student and recent grad from the University of Regina.
Today marks the commemoration of World Refugee Day. The day comes with both sad and exciting memories. It not only reminds me of the nine and a half years I spent in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, without the presence and support of family, it is also a day to look on my accomplishments and achievements as a recent graduate.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge World University Service of Canada (WUSC) , the continued support from Local Committees, volunteers and partners in the University of Saskatchewan, and the continuous presence, advice, and communication from individuals like Asnaketch (Asni) Mekonnen and Michelle Manks.
My experience at university and involvement with WUSC , have been abundant and rewarding. With exceptional support from WUSC, I not only successfully integrated into Canadian society, but also happily completed my Bachelor of Social Work and wrote an upcoming book, Christian Faith among the Jieeng.
WUSC’s Student Refugee Program (SRP) stands out as the only education and resettlement program that provides hope, resources and opportunities for refugee students. Apart from the SRP initiatives in different Canadian campuses, WUSC also engages Canadian students, university and college partners, and communities in fundraising activities that empower youth, women and children to achieve their potential dreams overseas. Different Local Committees and individual donors play a huge role in raising money and increasing awareness through the Shine-a-Light Campaign, an initiative that provides refugee girls with the skills and resources they need to thrive at schools in Kenya and Malawi.
For instance, the University of Saskatchewan’s WUSC Local Committee organized its third annual Shine-a-Light Fundraiser dinner on January 17, 2014. The event drew many individuals and groups around the Saskatoon, raising over 2500 dollars.
When an organization gives responsibility about the use of resources to the direct beneficiaries, it not only guarantees individual growth and development, but also raises the confidence and competence in these resourceful people. These are the basics of empowerment and service to humanity that WUSC should be proud to be a part of. WUSC successfully combines the models of community development and engagement, including the analogy of teaching an individual how to fish instead of giving her fish, and availing opportunities to develop specific skills that will then help individuals to contribute to the country’s economic development.
Refugees are ordinary individuals with exceptional potential that, when appropriately tapped, become part of the solution to the challenges tearing our world apart. Refugees' expertise may give alternative ways to approach nation building and alleviate political, social and economic turmoil in different parts of the world. I feel proud when I witness WUSC continuing its task to support refugees through the SRP, a program that puts resettlement and education in one basket. As a former beneficiary of the SRP, I would attest to the fact that when humanity speaks for itself, WUSC will stand tall and proud of its service to humanity and the subsequent empowerment of young people from different refugee camps around the world. - Nathaniel Athian Deng
Nathaniel Athian Deng, 28, fled South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, where he lived for nine and a half years before coming to Canada through World University Service of Canada (WUSC)’s Student Refugee Program (SRP) in 2010. Athian enrolled in the College of Arts and Science, Environmental Studies and Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan before transferring to the University of Regina where he recently graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) on June 6, 2014.
Athian’s interest and passion in community engagement, especially the facilitation, teaching and leadership of youth and women and clergy responsibilities in the Sudanese Congregation, influenced his choice to pursue social work, with an emphasis in community development. Athian encourages open conversations among communities and organizations, empowering individuals, groups and families in areas they have potential strengths, and building interpersonal relationships among individuals, groups and organizations.
“I feel proud when I witness WUSC continuing its task to support refugees through the SRP, a program that puts resettlement and education in one basket.”
Starting this September, Athian will attend the University of Saskatchewan in the Public Administration (MPA) Graduate Program.