Between 2011 and 2012, 151 refugee youth were welcomed onto 51 Canadian campuses through our Student Refugee Program (SRP). Over 350 students, staff, and faculty members were there to support the social and academic integration of these students in their first year in Canada. Four years later, many of these students are now graduating and are looking forward to the new opportunities their education has opened up for them.
Before they arrived in Canada, the opportunities available to Kin, Jean, Jackline, and John were few and far between. This was not because they lacked the skills and determination to continue their studies, but rather because there were few pathways to education in the refugee camps where they lived. Through our SRP, these bright young students were able to defy the odds and continue their studies (only 1% of refugee youth have access to tertiary education), beginning their journey toward a better future for themselves and their families.
Kin Pwong Lay
Often described as “the world’s longest-running civil war”, Kin’s parents were forced to flee Myanmar in 1992. They resettled in the refugee camp of Mae Su Rae on the Thai side of the eastern Burmese border. Kin was born in this refugee camp where she then grew up, attended school, and, eventually, applied for the SRP.
In August 2012, Kin enrolled in Business Administration at the University of Regina. When she first arrived, she found the weather and food in Canada to be quite strange. She also still remembers her first day of lab class in Canada: “I had no idea what to do in the class. I just wanted to step out of the class as soon as I could.” Since then, she has become much more comfortable in class and in her community. Now that she is graduating, Kin would like to volunteer in Myanmar to give back to her community of origin, where many young refugees are still struggling to have access to higher education.
“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to WUSC donors for their contribution to the SRP program. Without their support, none of the SRP students like myself would ever be able to make it through here and attain a higher and better education.”
Jean was born in Burundi, a small country located in East Central Africa. Since the beginning of the 1970’s, Burundi has been afflicted by internal ethnic conflicts that have displaced thousands of people. Jean’s family had to flee Burundi shortly after his birth. He spent his entire young life in different refugee camps.
Despite the tragic loss of his mother in 2004, Jean managed to maintain good grades in high school, and, in 2012, was accepted to the SRP to come and study in Canada. Jean is the first SRP student to graduate from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) with a Bachelor of Science. Throughout his UOIT journey, Jean has taken careful notes and documented his experiences. His goal is to one day summarize his observations into a book – already about halfway to completion.
“I have learned things can happen in life that you never thought possible. The university’s sponsorship of me has helped me achieve the impossible: a university education.”
Jackline Kulang was born in Sudan. The civil war in the 1980s and 1990s forced Jackline and her family to flee to Kenya for their safety. They resettled in Kakuma refugee camp, where Jackline attended high school through a sponsorship offered by the Jesuit Refugee Service. Once she had completed high school, she applied for the SRP and was accepted. After 16 years of life spent in a refugee camp, this program was her chance to build a better future for herself and her son.
Jackline was accepted to study at Brock University in St. Catharines and arrived in Canada in August 2011 to start a bachelor’s degree in Public Health. As an introvert, single mother, full time student and part-time worker, she kept to herself a lot, but in her third year, she started making some really good friends. Now that she has completed her degree, Jackline is hoping to start a master’s degree in Public Health in the fall. In the future she would like to do more research in her areas of interests: global health, infectious diseases, and health policy.
“I never knew I would ever graduate from university at all, and I know my son has a bright future; here in Canada he can become whatever he wants to be.”
John Kon was born in Sudan, but was forced to flee his country because of the Civil War. He spent more than a decade in a refugee camp in Kenya. Although he attended school in the camp, the chances to continue his education beyond high school were extremely limited, making it very easy for students like John to become discouraged. Instead, John heard about the SRP, and it motivated him to study very hard with the hope of one day becoming selected for the program.
His efforts paid off; John arrived in Canada in August 2011 through the SRP. He was accepted to study at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario to study Actuarial and Financial Mathematics. When he arrived at the Pearson Airport in Toronto, all the members of the WUSC Local Committee from McMaster University were waiting for him. “I never had a group of people so excited to see me like that before. It made me feel right at home.”
John is currently actively looking for a job and preparing his application to become a Canadian citizen. He intends to work for a while, but has not ruled out going back to school later in life.