When we enter university, we share the stress of homework, time management, and tuition fees. But what if the chance to go to university wasn’t allowed?
Last Wednesday, the World University Service of Canada at UTM held its first coffeehouse night at the Blind Duck Pub in honour of its Student Refugee Program. WUSC intended to bring awareness to UTM about SRP. Every year, SRP brings one student to UTM from a refugee country. Every student pays $2.20 in their tuition to help ease the costs of the refugee student’s first year. SRP also helps the student find permanent residency in Canada.
The coffeehouse was an intimate gathering of about 10 to 15 people. Peter Kungania, UTM’s WUSC coordinator, hosted the event. Guests had tea and cookies while Kungania discussed the importance of SRP, particularly how helping refugees come to UTM provides them with a chance to pursue an education.
Joan Simalchik, the associate chair of the women and gender studies program at UTM, also spoke to the guests. Simalchik has studied migration and diasporic studies and human rights theory, and has worked with many newcomers to Canada. Simalchik discussed how Donald Trump will be a barrier for refugees, as Trump wants to ban Muslim and Syrian immigrants from settling in America. Simalchik explained that Canada has a history for accepting refugees, whether it was slaves escaping to Canada during the American Civil War, or Jewish people immigrating to Canada during World War 2. Canada is known for its acceptance.
SRP also provides refugee students with a strong support system. Simalchik talked about a student she worked with that experienced sleeping problems because he was afraid he would be kidnapped, which was a credible threat in his home country. When SRP matched two students with him, he felt happier and more at ease. When the student has coffee with his peers, for instance, he feels like he belongs.
After Simalchik’s discussion, Shumayl Fatima Hassan sang “Certain Things” by James Arthur. The song talks about having someone to rely on in your life. When refugee students come to Canada, they can find peace within their community and build strong relationships with their peers. In turn, they have a community at UTM to rely on.
Peter Kungania ended the night by encouraging the group to sing “Jambo Bwana.” This is a Kenyan song typically sung when people come to Kenya. But in this case, it represents the open arms Canadians should have when refugees come to Canada.