WUSC’s Student Refugee Program has a long history at the University of Saskatchewan, which has been sponsoring students to attend the university since the late 1970s. Each year the University of Saskatchewan Student’s Union (USSU) collects a levy of $3.50 per semester per student. This money enables our local committee to sponsor three to four refugee students each year.
The candidates for this sponsorship reside in refugee camps, which means that they have been forced to relinquish their citizenship (and the protection that citizenship obligates their government to provide) and are living in conditions that leave them vulnerable to violence, poverty and disease on a daily basis. Our sponsorship program helps these highly deserving individuals transition from living in fear and constant uncertainty, without access to work and without citizenship, to self-reliant members of Canadian society, with the safety, stability and rights and responsibilities that continue to make the Canadian lifestyle envied around the world.
Local WUSC members volunteer their time to help orient these new students to life in Canada, and life on the U of S campus, and to support the spiritual, academic, physical and fiscal needs of the students. This support takes many forms, including helping the students orient themselves within the campus and the community, arranging for and attend medical appointments, navigating the demands of the university, and connecting with other youth their age. Moreover, our Local Committee has tons of fun introducing sponsored students to many uniquely Canadian experiences and just as much fun learning about their life before Canada. We hold social gatherings each month, such as bowling, pizza making, and board game nights in order to create a community for the students within their new home.
The SRP provides leadership opportunities for highly motivated, socially responsible young people on campus, and promotes Canadian values of multiculturalism, diversity and respect. Refugee students bring new perspectives to campuses and students. Members gain first-hand knowledge about refugee experiences and human rights, acquire hands-on skills in organizing, fundraising and advocacy; peace and conflict issues and humanitarian affairs; cross-cultural communications; and civic participation and public engagement. Moreover, the SRP enables post-secondary institutions to achieve several educational, cultural and humanitarian goals, which include promoting diversity, increasing internationalization, and expressing solidarity for academic freedom.