‘Angaza Kwa Upendo’ Fundraising Gala: Shine a Light on Refugee Girls Education

WUSC UVic would like to invite you to join us for our upcoming Angaza Kwa Upendo Fundraising Gala for the Student Refugee Program’s Shine A Light Campaign! The Gala will take place on Friday, January 30, 2015 with the goal of bringing together the local community including NGO personnel, businesses, and members of the public and UVic students and staff to Shine-a-Light on girls’ education. The evening will feature a silent auction, catered buffet dinner and dessert, storytelling, live entertainment, and an open dance floor.

We hope that you will join us for this sure to be fun and cultured experience!

When: January 30, 2015; doors open at 6pm
Where: UVic Grad House, 3800 Finnerty Road
Tickets are $40 General, $25 Student (limited quanitity available)
Ticket purchase deadline is January 20, 2015
Dress Code: Semi-formal

Pay parking is available on campus.

Eventbrite - 'Angaza Kwa Upendo' Fundraising Gala: Shine a Light on Refugee Girls Education

Angaza Kwa Upendo is Swahili for Shine with Love. Chosen for its representation of the WUSC family goals, Angaza Kwa Upendo embodies the idea of empowerment and friendship that WUSC UVic has fostered within our community. For over 30 years, the WUSC Student Refugee Program (SRP) has been providing opportunities for young refugee students to pursue higher education through peer-peer sponsorship in Canada. Among the students sponsored by WUSC, men greatly outnumber women because fewer girls have the opportunity to finish high school. Due to the cost of school and the expectations to help with domestic chores and the care of siblings, girls in the camps often miss school or discontinue their studies altogether. In many classrooms, boys outnumber girls 4:1.

We believe that everyone has the right to education, and through WUSC’s Shine a Light campaign, girls in refugee camps have been provided with solar lamps, scholarships, and after-school programs in a safe learning environment so that they may complete their studies. Since 1978, the University of Victoria WUSC Local Committee has been able to sponsor more than 35 students through our sponsorship program. We are requesting your help in continuing our goal.
Want to support us but can’t attend? Sponsor a student, make an in-kind donation, or donate an item to our silent auction!

Help a refugee girl reach her full potential. Support her education.

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World Refugee Week: June 22

On June 22, it was a sunny afternoon in Victoria, but a group of people at the Central Library were transported worlds away to India in 1947 at the time of Partition and turbulent El Salvador in 1985 through the power of storytelling.

Brajinder Dhillon and Alvaro Moreno shared some their experiences with a captivated audience for a public panel as part of World Refugee Week in Victoria. The panel, moderated by immigration lawyer Peter Golden and hosted by the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS), was the capstone of a series of events to celebrate the resiliency of refugees and honour their stories.

Brajinder stood at the front of the room for nearly an hour telling the story of her family’s escape from their community to a refugee camp in Lahore and then to India. She began by describing her life as a young girl in India in 1947, before the partition of India and Pakistan. She and her siblings played in the streets with other Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu children. That soon changed when the land was divided. Brajinder’s father was killed in the fighting, and Brajinder, her mother, and her siblings had to flee. They began the treacherous path to seek refuge in Lahore, witnessing much much bloodshed and killing along the way.

Once her family resettled in India, Brajinder spoke about how painful the stigma of being a refugee was. “Every time we would leave the house for school, the neighbours would scream, “Refugees! Refugees! Refugees!” she said. Not understanding the term, Brajinder thought it referred to a disease. Even at her wedding, she said, the stigma still hurt: people asked, “Where is the family from?” and the disdainful response came back: “Oh, they are refugees.” “It was like someone stabbed me,” said Brajinder, with tears in her eyes.

Brajinder and her husband immigrated to Vancouver in 1963, where she found work as a teacher. She recognized the need for English as a Second Language courses in the public school system for immigrant children who were falling through the cracks, and began to teach ESL in 1972. She continues to teach ESL in Delta today, and has written a book, Dawn to Dusk, about her family’s experiences during Partition.

Alvaro Moreno also knows the difficulty of leaving behind everything to come to a foreign place. He came to Canada as a refugee from El Salvador in 1985, after his life was put in danger because of his political activities in rural land reform and organizing cooperatives. When his application was accepted by the UN High Commission for Refugees in El Salvador, he was given three options: Australia, Belgium, or Canada. In just moments, he had to make a decision that would determine his whole future—and he picked Canada, which was at least on the same continent as El Salvador.

Alvaro recalled sitting on a bus headed to the airport in El Salvador with other Salvadorian refugees. Some carried sacks; others held their belongings in cardboard boxes. Alvaro asked the UNHCR official where he was headed. “Alberta,” the response came back. Where was that? Alvaro wondered. “You’ll find out,” the official told him. Alvaro was resettled to Edmonton, where he eventually went back to school and completed a master’s degree in rural sociology. He went on to work in international development. Of course, to travel he needed a passport; to get that passport, he became a Canadian citizen. Today, Alvaro runs the Citizenship 101 course at the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) to help others prepare for that same process. He is also the president of the Victoria Coalition for Survivors of Torture.

Both speakers’ stories spoke to the triumph of human spirit over adversity. “Immigrants and refugees—it’s not a disease,” said Brajinder. “There are forces to push us to leave—imagine, to leave your family, your home, everything you know, is not easy.”

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World Refugee Day Victoria: June 20

“It’s often said that a society can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable people,” said Siyad Jama at a public panel for World Refugee Day on June 20. Victoria may not be a centre for refugees like Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal, but three public panels held this week for World Refugee Day show that our community, too, cares about people most in need of protection.

Siyad Jama and Viet Tran spoke about their experiences of coming to Canada as refugees in a forum hosted by the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) and moderated by VIRCS case manager Leanne Gislason. Siyad, who was born in Somalia and grew up in Kenya, was resettled in Victoria through the World University Service of Canada Student (WUSC) Refugee Program in 2011. Viet, originally from Vietnam, came to Canada as a refugee with his family in 1987, and later went on to co-found VIRCS to help others through that same process of adjusting to life in Canada.

Viet’s and Siyad’s stories of how they came to Canada are very different. Viet escaped from Vietnam in the late 1980s. “You probably heard of the Vietnam War?” he said. “I was on the wrong side.” After leaving Vietnam by boat and spending three years in a refugee camp, Viet and his family were resettled to Victoria.  He hardly knew anything about the city where he was to start a new life, said Viet—“I couldn’t even find Victoria on a map.”

Siyad’s story starts in a refugee camp; his family fled Somalia in 1992, when he was only a year old, and he grew up in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. He excelled in academics and took on a leadership role as a teacher in the camp, and was chosen for sponsorship by WUSC to begin his post-secondary education at the University of Victoria. He had been dreaming of a life outside the refugee camp from a young age. “I was practically in that camp, but my mind was all over the world,” he said.

Both Siyad and Viet consider themselves to be the lucky ones. “What does it mean to be lucky as a refugee?” asked Leanne, the moderator. “Lucky is to be alive,” replied Viet. But both men have done more than survive since coming to Canada; they have thrived. They show that the word “refugee” stands for much more than poverty and despair—it stands for resiliency and strength.

There are many small steps that members of the community can take to welcome refugees to Canada and improve their situations, said the panelists. Donate your money to organizations like WUSC if you can, said Siyad, but contributions don’t have to be monetary: Canadians could help a refugee “if you love that person, if you welcome that person, if you give them a good place to live.” To Viet, talking to strangers is a good start: he encouraged the audience to make friends of another culture, share food with them, and learn from them.

Siyad, who has been in Canada less than two years, is proud to call this country his third home, after Somalia and Kenya. “This is the country that hosted me, that helped me,” he said. “I am learning a lot about this country, and I appreciate a lot about this country, and I hope that this is the country where my children will be raised. They will not be raised in a refugee camp.”

More World Refugee Week events will be held Friday, June 21 from 11:30-1:30 at Oak Bay Library, and Saturday, June 22 from 11:30-1:30 at the Central Library.

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WUSC Symposium: A Critical Look at Canada’s Refugee Laws

WUSC Symposium_JPEGWUSC UVic presents: 2013 Symposium: A Critical Look at  Canada’s Refugee Laws

Thursday, February 28, 7-9 pm in SSM A120 (UVic campus)

“[I]f you intend to come here as a criminal or to abuse our generosity, you will be stopped or you will be returned promptly. That’s what Canadians expect”
– Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney, Ottawa news conference, Feb. 2012.

On December 15, 2012, Bill C-31 was passed, containing several controversial reforms to Canada’s current refugee determination system. Omnibus bill C-31, introduced by Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, in early 2012, outlines measures to make the refugee determination process faster and more ‘efficient.’ Alongside refugee reforms brought on by Bill C-31, our federal government also approved service cuts to Canada’s long-standing Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) on June 30, 2012.

On February 28, 2013, WUSC UVic will be hosting a Symposium that address policy changes to Canada’s refugee system, including Bill C-31 and cuts to IFHP. This Symposium seeks to spread awareness and foster critical dialogue about the implications of these reforms: its effect on the experiences of refugee claimants seeking asylum in Canada and a changing political attitude geared increasingly towards surveillance and criminalization. The evening will investigate the impacts of these policy changes, not only at an international and national level, but also at a local level on community organizations and social service providers.

Scott Watson, Political Science Professor at UVic
Donald Galloway, Law Professor at UVic
David Lau, Executive Director at Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS)

Facebook event

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A Peppy Video

Wondering about the referendum but don’t feel like reading about it? We’ve got the medium for you! Check out our explanatory video here – it might even make you laugh. 

AND THEN GO VOTE! webvote.uvic.ca, Nov. 2, 3 & 4

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Your Spare Change Can Change Lives

UVic students: on November 2, 3 and 4, vote yes to increase WUSC’s Student Refugee Program funding by $1.00 so we can sponsor a fourth student. Your spare change can change lives!

ncreasing the fee students pay to fund the Student Refugee Program by $1.00 per full time student and $0.50 per part-time student per semester will allow the UVic World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee to sponsor four refugee students to resettle in Victoria and continue their education at UVic.

Currently, UVic WUSC is able to sponsor three refugees every year to come study at UVic. The funds needed for the sponsorship come from student fees ($1.50 per full-time undergrad and $2.00 per full-time grad student per semester) and from a yearly donation from the UVic administration. This pays for the three sponsored students’ tuition, housing, and living costs for their first year in Canada. By raising the amount full-time students pay each semester by $1.00, UVic WUSC can sponsor four students each year.

In recent years, sponsored students have come from refugee camps in Kenya and their countries of origin have been places like Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda. There are many, many more deserving refugee students who apply to come to Canada through the Student Refugee Program than there are spots.

The Student Refugee Program gives sponsored students the opportunity to begin a new life in Canada. By voting yes and donating one dollar more a semester – the price of a cup of coffee, or a chocolate bar – your spare change can change lives.

IMPORTANT: This year, the UVSS has switched to online elections! Starting at 9:00 am on Nov. 2, you can log in with your Netlink ID at webvote.uvic.ca and VOTE YES to support UVic’s SRP!

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UVic WUSC in The Ring!

In the October issue of The Ring, the newspaper produced by UVic Communications, there is a great story about UVic WUSC! Pick up a copy on campus, flip to the back page, and take a look – and then, share with your friends!

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