Hidden in the long list of fees that appear on every Acadia student’s account statement, it is easy to overlook the one dollar a year that goes towards WUSC. WUSC stands for the World University Service of Canada and is a non-profit organization based out of university campuses across the country. WUSC’s aim is to create a better world by promoting education, employment and empowerment in Canada and around the world. Many Acadia students don’t know that this small fee they pay each year actually goes towards supporting one of WUSC’s biggest initiatives, the Student Refugee Program. The money raised from this small levy goes towards sponsoring a student from a refugee camp to come and study at Acadia. This fee along with the financial assistance provided by the university and various community organizations helps to cover the cost of tuition and living expenses for the student. A small group of Acadia students serve on the Local Committee and are responsible for filling out the paperwork to help sponsor a new student each year. The Local Committee receives applications from students all around the world interested in studying in Canada and decides together which student would be a good fit for our university. When the student arrives, it is the Local Committee members and the faculty representative, Julie Snair, who go to the airport to welcome them and provide support to them throughout the rest of the year and beyond. This is important as the transition can be challenging and while students who have lived in Canada their whole lives may not understand the difficulties of resettlement, they can still do their best to make sure the student feels as welcomed and supported as possible.
This program is unique in that it encourages students to sponsor other students in need around the world. Whether it is through organizing fundraising initiatives or raising awareness about the refugee crisis on campus, the Student Refugee Program has a lot to offer both the students being sponsored and those doing the sponsoring. This program is actually the only one of its kind in the world that pairs the idea of youth to youth sponsorship with refugee resettlement and education. It aims to not only provide the youth who must flee their countries with a safe place to call home, but also to provide them with the opportunity to gain new skills and a world-class university education. Students can choose to enrol in any degree program they wish and have generally been very successful with 85% of students sponsored finding work in their desired field. Many decide to stay in Canada after completing their degrees but many also decide to return to their home countries to try and make a difference there.
While Acadia only sponsors one student per year, the student who comes adds to the diversity and culture of the University and the Wolfville community as a whole. They provide Canadian and international students with the opportunity to learn about other cultures and world issues in a more personal way. It also offers students the chance to make a difference in someone’s life when all the problems in the world can seem overwhelming. While there are certainly major challenges and issues that need to be addressed in order to prevent the mass displacement of young people and their families, this is one way that Acadia seeks to help. In light of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, and other devastating humanitarian catastrophes around the world right now, WUSC Acadia is hoping to expand what they do by looking for new members, fundraising, and spreading awareness. There is also the possibility of holding a referendum in the coming years to increase the student levy. The goal would be to raise the levy by a small amount, likely just a dollar more, to either increase the support for the SRP students already at Acadia or to possibly increase the number of students Acadia is able to sponsor. Additional projects include raising awareness and fundraising for the Shine a Light Campaign which seeks to improve the accessibility of the Student Refugee Program to women and girls who are currently under-represented in it.
Students who are interested in getting involved are encouraged to find the WUSC Acadia Facebook group or to email Co-Chair Rhys Winder (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about joining the local committee.
For sources and more information visit http://www.wusc.ca/en/program/srp-resources