“You’re Going To Canada!” – The Words That Start A Journey For Student Refugee Program Students
Most people do not think of a refugee camp as a place to go for better education opportunities. But that is the reality for refugees around the world who are displaced by war, drought, famine, and poverty. Manyang Lual Jok has had a remarkable journey, from leaving his home in South Sudan as a refugee to becoming a graduate of McGill University in Montreal.
This September, WUSC’s Student Refugee Program Awareness Month, Manyang shared this story with us. He also joined us in asking the WUSC network and the wider Canadian public: please show your support of refugee youth education by making a donation to this very special program. Future generations of students are counting on it!
This is Manyang’s story.
At Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, Manyang was able to go to primary school and then high school. He studied hard and did well on his exams, so he was encouraged to apply to the Student Refugee Program. He was one of 300 students who applied for only a small number of spots in Kakuma.
The camp doesn’t have computers, so to see who had been accepted students had to go look at a piece of paper tacked to a board. The day the final results were posted the news was circulating all over, but Manyang was so nervous he stayed on the basketball court with his friends.
When someone finally found him on the court and handed him a copy of the list, he was so emotional he couldn’t even read. He asked a friend if his name was on the list and heard the words that would change everything, “Yeah. You’re second on the list and you’re going to Canada.”
Manyang said, “It was an incredible moment, but also bittersweet. Because, sadly, there are not enough opportunities available for everyone. I had friends on that basketball court who did not make the cut.”
Manyang’s life was on a new path. He’d been accepted to McGill University in Montreal. He’d never heard of either place. He said, “I didn’t know anything about my new city or university but when I looked it up, I was impressed.” It was also scary, but he knew WUSC had his back.
Peer-to-peer support, from Local Committee members and alumni of the Student Refugee Program, is one of the most important things WUSC does for students. Alumni are people who know the experience of living as a refugee, who’ve walked in the same shoes, are there to help new students succeed.
As Manyang walked across the stage at convocation, his family in Kenya was watching the entire three-hour live stream just to get a glimpse of him receiving his BA in Computer Science and Economics. He said, “My family now knows that life does not have to be only in Kakuma. There’s life beyond Kakuma. That’s something that was not plausible before.”
Right now, his goal is to find the first job to start his career. He hopes to find something in the tech sector, as a software developer or project manager. And WUSC will still be there to encourage his success.
Manyang is proud that he can pay rent for his mother and school fees for his younger siblings. His dream is to build a house for his mother. That’s the power of the Student Refugee Program. It doesn’t just provide access to resettlement and education for individual students, but has ripple effects through families and future generations of students.
There are bright students all over the world waiting for an opportunity like this. But, globally, only 5% of student refugees have access to higher education. A huge part of the world is being left behind.
The Student Refugee Program depends on the donations of individual people in Canada and around the world to make life-changing impacts in people’s lives. And not just for individuals, but for whole families and communities. As Manyang said, “whatever you can give, your impact will be more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Please donate this September to this extraordinary program!