Saturday, February 17, 2018

Camosun College students aim for refugee-sponsorship program

October 14, 2015 by Sarah Vowles, contributing writer

World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a student-based and student-run non-governmental organization that has a chapter operating out of Camosun College, is hoping to start a refugee-sponsorship program through an official Camosun student refugee program. The program would place a sponsored refugee student at Camosun College.

“Sixty-one schools across Canada already fund this program,” says WUSC member Jonathan Perritt-Mo’ungaloa.

Some participating schools have received funding from businesses, allowing them to sponsor more students.

“Most schools will sponsor at least one student a year, but there is the ability to have more depending on how much funding they get, through a levy, for example,” says WUSC member Jenny Little. “But we are starting small, with one student a year, and seeing where we can go from there.”

These students want to see a refugee-sponsorship program start up here at Camosun College (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

These students want to see a refugee-sponsorship program start up here at Camosun College (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

This program, if it goes through, will be financially supported and organized by the student body.

“It is going to be student-funded,” says Little. “The goal at the October [Camosun College Student Society] elections is to have the students agree to add $1.50 to their student levy each semester, which is like 40 cents a month. It’s nothing, and that will fund the entire program.”

The students are granted landed immigrancy, and the program covers tuition, housing, food, social supports, and more.

The program is still in the works, and they still have hurdles to overcome, a significant one being getting enough initial support from the students.

“We’ve got about 300 signatures so far, and the student society wants us to have 500 signatures by the end of September,” says Perritt-Mo’ungaloa. “Once we gather all those signatures by the end of this month, then the student society will decide if it is feasible for us or possible for us to be on the ballot.”

Little is optimistic, saying they already have the program in place, as well as a majority of the funding.

“If we go through with this upcoming election, then we will be good to go to have someone landed by next November,” she says.

Camosun College international director Geoff Wilmshurst says that Camosun International is “very happy” that this WUSC chapter has formed at Camosun, and he adds that Camosun International are very supportive of the refugee-sponsorship program.

“As a former WUSC refugee-sponsorship program coordinator I know that this is the ultimate life-changing experience for both the sponsored student and the sponsoring group,” says Wilmshurst. “Camosun International has committed to covering the cost, through a scholarship, of two semesters of tuition for the sponsored student and assisting the [WUSC] local committee with the tools they will need to assist the student once they have arrived in Canada.”

WUSC has some ideas for future generations of Camosun students, such as the Shine a Light program, which focuses on giving girls access to education.

The process to determine who would be chosen as a sponsored refugee would be based on a selection process to decide who would fit in best at Camosun. In the end it is the students who will decide if the refugee program is a success.

“It’s all contingent on whether or not people do go out and vote,” says Little.

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