Making Bold Moves for Over 40 Years
*This is a guest post by Floribert Kakule Kamabu, RN. He first encountered WUSC three decades ago, and continues to contribute his experience as a member of the Student Refugee Program Alumni Advisory Team.
The numbers can seem daunting: close to half of all school-aged refugee youth (48%) remain out of school, as reported by UNHCR in 2022. For the lucky ones who make it through primary and secondary school, only a tiny fraction get the chance to attend a college or university.
But here at WUSC we are not defeated!
For over 40 years, WUSC has supported youth living as refugees to come to Canada – not just for resettlement, but for education. It’s no easy task, choosing who among thousands will get this chance. But the students who are chosen go really far. It means so much to be part of this opportunity to take their life in a brand new direction.
Refugee youth are an important demographic. And supporting their success has a direct impact on sustainable development goals like no poverty and quality education for all.
Many people do not realize this, but WUSC does not receive any government funding for the Student Refugee Program. Therefore, we rely entirely on the generosity of individuals. Our donors, people who support the Student Refugee Program, are vital partners in nurturing the talent and sustaining the commitment of these bright young people who will one day play key roles in rebuilding a more peaceful and prosperous world.
You may ask, how do you know?
My name is Floribert Kakule Kamabu and I lived this truth nearly three decades ago. I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But, war in the wake of the Rwandan genocide drove me to a refugee camp in Uganda. The horrors I witnessed as a young man are forever etched in my heart. But once I reached the relative safety of the refugee camp I started hoping. I started helping out in the camp prenatal and vaccination clinic where I developed my love of medicine and caring for people.
This was also where I learned about WUSC. I knew I needed to take a big leap to achieve my dreams. And when I was accepted by WUSC and admitted to Simon Fraser University I knew I was on my way.
Even before I walked across the tarmac in the blazing Ugandan sun to take my first ever trip in an airplane, I knew WUSC was special. I could see right away that the quality of this program was unique. Their commitment to my success started with intensive pre-arrival services and continued with the warm and loving welcome I received from the student-led Local Committee in Vancouver airport.
I soon saw that this was more than just a way out; it was a way forward.
When I first arrived, I learned right away that WUSC cared about me – how I was doing, what I was feeling, they took care of me, body, mind, and spirit. It’s a gift that continues to pay dividends to this day. I have sponsored people 21 times. They, too, escaped unimaginable horrors. They now live and work in Canada as proud and productive citizens. Maybe one of them is your neighbor!
Becoming an advocate for WUSC gave me such purpose. I jumped in with both feet – determined to make sure the Student Refugee Program would thrive and grow. While at nursing school at St. Boniface University in Winnipeg I helped start a campaign to sponsor the first refugee student. I used my own experience and banked on the generosity and caring I had witnessed in Canadians to inspire my fellow students to action.
Our campaign poster with myself and fellow students holding coins showing the cost of a cup of coffee. It does not cost much to make a difference.
The beauty of the program is it is student-led. It is recession proof. It is sustainable. There will always be universities, there will always be youth living as refugees, and there will always be Canadians who want to make somebody’s life better. And we didn’t ask for a lot, our campaign said that for a cup of coffee a day, which was 50 cents at the time, you can make a difference.
It was so powerful. And everybody voted yes for adding this contribution to the student fees – I think we won that referendum by over 99%.
I came up with a message I thought everyone could get behind. I said, “in Africa, if you have three children, and one of them is a girl, guess what? The girl stays home to sweep the compound and cook; the boys go to school.” I said to them, “let’s make bold moves! If we raise the money, I promise you the first student we bring here will be a girl!”
And you know what? We did it! All for the cost of a cup of coffee…
It was a powerful moment when that first young woman stepped onto campus and I introduced her to her peers. I said, “she is here and she’s going to be part of this community. You made it possible for her to come from a refugee camp to this campus, and now she’s one of you. Take care of her.” And they did.
Today, I work as a traveling nurse taking care of some of Canada’s most vulnerable folks in long term care centers. And as a member of the SRP Alumni Advisory Committee, I work to take care of some of the most vulnerable global citizens.
I try to see an enormous opportunity everywhere I look. At WUSC we have thousands of alumni like me – here in Canada and across the world. They are dedicated and generous; they trace their success back to WUSC and the SRP. I want to harness the power of this group so we can continue to make bold moves. But we can’t do it alone.
There will always be colleges and universities, there will always be students who want to help, and there are millions of refugees praying for the chance I had. Together as a community, we can connect the dots between these pieces. When people donate to the program, it makes a difference. When students raise support for the program on campus, it makes a difference.
That’s why I want my final message to you to be one of gratitude. It’s the caring contributions of thousands of people that make the Student Refugee Program possible. That’s a big achievement!
WUSC works to create a better world for all young people. To learn more, start here or subscribe to get highlights straight to your inbox. Interested in volunteering internationally? View our current opportunities. Looking for a new career opportunity? Check out our current job openings. Or show your support for our cause by making a donation.