Student Refugee Program

UTSU-New College WUSC Local Committee wins second award

The UTSU-New College WUSC Local Committee was recognized for the second time in a row as the winner for the Best Event of the Year in WUSC campus awards 2021-2022 academic year. These awards are annual and recognize outstanding Local Committees and the great work they do. 

This recognition is for the event hosted on June 20, 2022 in celebration of World Refugee Day, an international annual day that celebrates the stories of refugees and asylum seekers around the world. Our Local Committee was first recognized for the best event of the year in the 2020-2021 awards for the film screening event. The event was about a film Salam Neighbor (2015) that documents the lives of Syrian refugees in Jordan. We were joined by one of the film directors Chris Temple who generously shared his experience with us. 

The UTSU-New college Local Committee has worked hard to shed awareness and education around refugee issues. We are always so pleased that our efforts are being recognized. 

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Program Objectives

  • Lead and facilitate student led and developed programming and activities
  • Create awareness around global and refugee issues
  • Develop and implement shared strategies to ensure successful cultural, social, and academic integration of refugee students
  • Build a community among refugee students and their peers at U of T 
  • Connect with the Local Committees & admin to explore opportunities for shared activities and best practices

Program Framework

The UTSU’s Student Refugee Program works at three levels to support refugee students from their first day all the way to graduation, and creates opportunities for students to learn, connect and gain access to many different resources on and off-campus.

The UTSU works with refugee students to help make their stories more visible allowing other students to learn more about refugee experiences. The UTSU also helps to raise awareness on campus through a variety of outreach and engagement activities helping bring the U of T community together in support of the common pursuit of equal access to higher education and raise awareness of refugee issues.

Local Committee

  • The role of the committee is to support in the year of settlement in areas of financial, cultural, academic and social needs.

 

  • Our program aims to provide greater support to the incoming SRP student through a strong Local Committee structure. Building ties with other Local Committees on the campus allows for opportunities to partner, share and learn from one another and leads to a better experience for incoming students.

Community Connections

Students may face many challenges throughout their undergraduate studies and require different support at different times. We are working hard through our Community Connections initiative to connect students in the years of their undergraduate education, helping to create and build community.

Education and Awareness

The program works to educate the U of T community and raise awareness around refugee issues. We collaborate on events with others, both on campus and off campus (student associations, community organizations, and partners) to have the largest impact.

SRP Student Stories

Matabishi (Fall 2023)

I am Matabishi, a student at the University of Toronto. I am grateful for the life-changing opportunity which I have been given through the World University Service of Canada – Student Refugee Program. I have been experiencing a transformative journey which has granted me countless chances to impact everyone around me positively.

Not only has being a part of this program provided me with access to quality education, but it has also allowed me to integrate into a vibrant and diverse academic environment. The support and resources offered have been instrumental in helping me adapt to life in Canada, and I am continually inspired by the commitment to fostering a welcoming atmosphere for students from all walks of life.

Moreover, I have had the privilege of connecting with fellow students and faculty members, fostering a spirit of inclusivity, understanding, and cooperation. This has enriched my personal development as well as allowed me to share my unique perspectives and learn from others in a mutually beneficial exchange.

I am deeply thankful for the generosity and support that have been extended to me, and I am committed to using the knowledge and experiences gained here to effect positive change in the world. The impact of this opportunity will resonate throughout my life, and I will continue to pay it forward by being an advocate for education and a catalyst for positive transformation.

Once again, I extend my heartfelt appreciation for the life-changing opportunity I have been granted, and I am committed to paying it forward by using my education and experiences to make a positive difference in the world.

Abdulrahman (Fall 2022)

Hello, My name is Abdulrahman Mubarak. I arrived in Canada through WUSC’s Student Refugee Program (SRP) in August 2022.

The SRP program gives eligible refugee youth an opportunity to be in a place where they are safe and can build a bright future for themselves.

While I was a refugee, I faced a lot of challenges from being demoralized, depressed, and sometimes being mocked for my dreams. But I always motivated myself, because I had a dream I needed to achieve and here I am.

For the past months that I have been in Canada, I’ve spent a good amount of time with the UTSU-New College Local Committee, from the first minute I saw them at the airport until now. The supportive, helpful and friendly members of the Local Committee made my settlement in my new home easier than I thought.

Moreover, during my first few days here, I was bored and lonely because I had arrived before the Fall semester started, but when school started everything changed:  Making new friends from around the world, and meeting with people from different cultures was one of the most exciting things I have ever done.

Furthermore, being a student at U of T is a great experience for anybody who seeks knowledge because through many libraries here on campus, I can now find rich-resources. 

 

Ultimately, the great efforts from WUSC-SRP that allow refugee youth to access higher education will always be appreciated. I hope that someday I’ll be able to offer the same support to students in need of it.

Nyandeng (Fall 2021)

I arrived in Canada – Pearson International Airport on August 27th 2021. I had mixed reactions. Part of me was excited about the new adventure. Beginning a new life, making new friends and above all, starting my post-secondary education. The other part of me was scared of starting a new life in a totally different environment so far away from home. I was wondering about how best to integrate in the new society.

From the airport, I was taken to the Delta Chelsea Hotel where I spent my 14 days in quarantine. Quarantine was quite boring at first, however, I got used to it. During the quarantine period, I managed to reconnect with family and friends via social media. It was the best feeling ever. A number of people from the UTSU-New College Local Committee were able to check in with me as well on a daily basis. This made the days fly by.

September 10th 2021 marked the end of quarantine and my first day in New College residence. I was so happy to finally breathe fresh air and get to meet members of my Local Committee who have been extremely supportive throughout my quarantine period. They have been offering both emotional and social support. I will never take that for granted. Canada is actually a safe haven for me because of them. Their warm welcome made me feel right at home.

In the last few days I have been able to attend some of my classes in-person and the rest online. I am getting used to different types of foods unlike the early days when eating new foods was more scary. I am experiencing minimum challenges so far thanks to all the wonderful support that I have received.

Jok (Fall 2023)

Hello! My name is Jok. I was once a refugee in Kenya and came to Canada via WUSC-SRP in August 2023. Being a refugee was a moment in my life where I felt like I was being ‘tested’ by life because it’s a moment that posed numerous challenges to me, ranging from poor academics, poor healthcare to mental and emotional breakdown, among others. Having grown up in such a hostile environment, resilience and hope were key for my survival. It is mostly nearly impossible to dream in a refugee camp but optimism and hope are the way through these hazy visions of such beautiful dreams.

Thanks to WUSC-SRP and all the donors, organizations and individuals who support this program; because of them, the dreams of thousands of young refugees who rely on hope and optimism are made valid and actualized.

I would like to express my gratitude to the UTSU-New College Local Committee for receiving and giving me all the support I needed to settle in. It would have been difficult to integrate into the new community but thanks to the UTSU-New college Committee and their continued support, I am able to blend uncomfortably. Not only do I feel at home, but I have also found a new family and friends from UTSU that I am going to cherish all the time.

Jaffar (Winter 2021)

My name is Jaffar, I was a refugee in Kenya before arriving in Canada. Being a refugee for almost a decade was a devastating period in my life, but it didn’t have to end that way. The same life taught me enough to envision my future. I have always been positive and maintained that positivity over the many challenges that I have faced. I never wanted to be a refugee and neither does anyone deserve to be one, but sometimes there are no alternatives.

Through the WUSC-Student Refugee Program, I was fortunate enough to start a new life in Canada, and arrived at the U of T in December 2020. It is like a golden ticket to be here and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I hope we all see and realize that beyond a ‘refugee’ is an individual who is a parent, a child, a game-changer, and are at their most needy points in their lives. Helping directly or indirectly you become part of the bigger story and the future story that I tell.

Skylar (Fall 2019)

My name is Skylar, I was a once among the LBGTQ+ aslyum seekers in Uganda, one of the most homophobic countries in the world. Being strong and hoping for a better future made me fight for my rights and those who shared the same pain with me. I am now safe and sound here in Canada, achieving my dreams at the greatest University in Toronto. 

Being among the Student Refugee Program (SRP students) makes me feel alive because if it wasn’t this, who knows if I would be here. I am pretty sure that I don’t only have safety and education, but I have a caring community at this University, and they are still doing all they can to help those in need as well.

Young refugees have many talents and power to contribute to the world. However, they are being victims of the politics of their home countries which make them lose a chance to continue their education. To students and everyone who donate to this cause to make sure students like me get back to school, are my heroes and I am glad I am a part of this journey.

Deng (Fall 2018)

Hi there! My name is Deng and I arrived through the WUSC-Student Refugee Program in August 2018. I was welcomed and received by the UTSU-New College Local Committee who supported my integration at U of T. For me, coming to a new environment to start from scratch was challenging yet exciting as well since I have always been optimistic about the future since the time I left my home country.

I would like to pass my gratitude to the WUSC-SRP, organizations and individuals supporting the programs for the impact they have on transforming the lives of young refugees worldwide. Being a refugee is just a status and when given the opportunity, refugees can accomplish anything like everyone.

Previous SRP Events

SRP Welcome Dinner (Aug 2023)

On August 29 2023, UTSU hosted a welcome dinner for the New SRP students. This was a way to introduce new SRP students to the vast SRP community on campus. They had an opportunity to meet and interact with both former SRP students and their Local Committee members. This helped them to learn about their new environment from various perspectives of older students and shared experiences. They were also able to make new friends whom they can connect with better, especially new SRP students from other UofT colleges.

WUSC Networking Night (Nov 2023)

On November 24, 2023, UTSU hosted a networking event for all Local Committees in the Greater Toronto Area, organized by WUSC staff. This was an excellent opportunity to meet fellow GTA-based Local Committees, establish a network of contacts with other Local Committees, and meet WUSC staff. The event fostered connections between WUSC Local Committees and individuals who share the same passion for education, international development, and youth engagements. The attendees were able to discuss, among various topics, ways to support and improve the integration of new SRP students into campus life and their new country.

 

Blue Jays Game (Sep 2023)

On September 14 2023, SRP students of the UTSU-New College Local Committee attended the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, organized by UTSU-New College Local Committee. This was a great opportunity to watch the incredible Toronto Blue Jays play against the Texas Rangers. The event helped SRP students socialize and experience a significant part of Toronto culture. For most SRP students, it was their first time watching a major league sports game live at the stadium, which made the experience more enriching. Some of their friends came along to the game as well, which made the event more exciting. Overall, the event was a great kickstart to the fall semester, courtesy of UTSU.

SRP Outdoor Dinner (Nov 2023)

On November 17, 2023, as part of their ongoing community building, the SRP Community Connections group hosted an outdoor dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. Given that this gathering happened in the middle of the Fall semester, it was an excellent opportunity to take a break from studying to destress, unwind, and share some laughs with fellow SRP students. It strengthened the SRP community at U of T by bringing together all SRP students, fostering a vibrant environment and lasting relationships among the SRP Students. The event also served to further the continued integration of our new SRP students to the U of T and UTSU community.

2nd Annual Meet & Greet (Oct 2022)

In October 2022, as part of their ongoing community building, the UTSU’s SRP Community Connections group hosted their 2nd annual Meet & Greet at the Student Commons. Former and current SRP student community members from U of T got together for an evening of fun, relationship building, and sharing of their lived experiences as they continue to adjust to University and Canadian life.

XAO: Refugee Panel Discussion (Feb 2022)

In February 2022, the UTSU hosted a discussion about the world refugee crisis, including experts and speakers on the Afghan and Rohingya crises, and a speaker from the Student Refugee Program to provide first-hand experience of the challenges and difficulties refugees face.

Watch a recording of the event here.

World Refugee Day (June 2021)

June 20th is an annual international day celebration honouring and recognizing the strength, courage and resilience of refugees. To celebrate, we held a World Refugee Day Art Contest (Theme: Hope and Courage) where participants created artwork to illustrate a story of hope and courage. The theme honoured the powerful stories of refugees around the world.

Eid Card Art Party (April 2021)

On April 29th, 2021 the UTSU hosted a live online art lesson in collaboration with the U of T Muslim Students’ Association to make Eid cards for Syrian newcomer families celebrating Eid al Fitr this year. The art lesson was conducted by Syrian painter, sculptor and ceramicst Farid Abdulbaki. Digital photos of the cards and messages were collected and shared with Syrian newcomer families in Toronto and the GTA through WoodGreen Community Centre to make this celebration more joyous.

Salam Neighbor - Online film screening & director Q&A (February 2021) - Winner of 2021 WUSC Campus Award for Event of the Year

The UTSU and the UTSU-New College Local Committee hosted the free film screening of “Salam Neighbor” on Tuesday February 23, 2021 as part of Expression Against Oppression (XAO) week. This award winning 2015 documentary focused on the Syrian refugee crisis highlighting the importance of equity and equality among neighbours. Film Director Chris Temple joined the UTSU for a live Q&A session following the film where we learned about his first hand experience in a Syrian refugee camp while filming. Frank Palmay from Lifeline Syria also joined us and provided insight from his organization’s experience in assisting sponsoring groups to help Syrian refugees settle here in Canada.

The Good Lie - Online Film Screening and Director Q&A (November 2020)

On November 19, 2020 The UTSU and the UTSU-New College Local Committee hosted an online screening of the 2014 film “The Good Lie.”  Joined by award-winning French Canadian Director Philippe Falardeau, a lively Q&A followed the film and the director spoke about the journey that Sudanese orphan Theo and his siblings made to Kenya and then to the United States. The film shared the struggles that are often faced in cultural and social integration in a new country.

BINGO NIGHT! (October 2020)

On October 22, 2020 the UTSU Local Committee hosted a fun and interactive bingo event  learning and sharing about the varied refugee student experiences in their country of asylum.

Refugee Education and Gender Equality: A Panel Discussion (October 2020)

On October 29, 2020 the UTSU and the UTSU-New College Local Committee hosted a panel discussion on gender equality and gender equity issues highlighting the challenges that refugee girls face in accessing higher education. Joined by the co-founders of the World With MNR (current UofT students), a representative from the World University Service Canada and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UTSU hosted a lively and important discussion around access and how education has the power to change lives.

World Refugee Day: UTSU x UNHCR Steps with Refugees (June 2020)

On June 20th, 2020 the UTSU and the UTSU-New College Local Committee celebrated World Refugee Day to honour the strength & courage of millions of refugees who are forced to flee their homes, leaving their families and belongings behind. UTSU and the UTSU-New College Local Committee joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s powerful movement called ‘Take A Step on World Refugee Day’ in solidarity with refugees who journeyed great distances to reach safety each year. As participants, we walked, jogged and ran, tracking our steps to contribute to the $2 billion km global target of the UNHCR’s campaign.

Check here or stay tuned to the UTSU Social Media for updates.