The WUSC SRP is a small sponsorship program; however, its significance lies not in its size but in its uncompromising belief in the human capital of refugee students –Robyn Plasterer, former WUSC volunteer
This past week, I finally managed to visit a place here in Malawi I’ve been thinking about since I finalized this placement last October: the Dzaleka refugee camp. (More explanation of my visit and why I wanted to go here.) And although the visit was rushed and I spent only a few hours with the 2014 WUSC students who will come to Canada this August and September from Dzaleka, my brief time in the camp reminds me of this quote, which I return to time and again in thinking about WUSC students. (For further reading on how the current international refugee system doesn’t hold the same belief in the human capital of refugees—and what should change!—check out this article and this article.)
In the camp’s SRP resource room, a hot and darkened space decorated with a Canadian flag and a sign of welcome, 19 students crowded in to hear from Michelle Manks, SRP Senior Program Officer, about WUSC, about what to expect in the coming months leading up to their departure, and about what they will experience when they arrive in Canada. And as they watched Michelle attentively, I watched them: nineteen bright faces, filled with excitement and anxiety about what lies ahead of them, ready to participate and ask questions and laugh.
I’m rarely at a loss for words about how I feel and what I think, but I can’t quite capture how meeting these WUSC students made me feel. My heart is filled with joy from meeting with them, and I can’t help but smile when I think of the adventures and opportunities they’ll encounter in Canada. Their lives will change, but they will change the lives of Canadians they meet, too—Canadians like me. At the same time, I’m wiping away tears as I write this, thinking of the events they’ve experienced in their short lives, the family members they may have to leave behind, and the other young people in Dzaleka and other refugee camps around the world that have no such opportunity to pursue their education and make a new life for themselves.
Everything I try to write sounds contrived and clichéd, so let me leave it at this: you couldn’t meet these WUSC students without being inspired. They are leaders now and I know they will be in Canada, too, and I’m honoured to have met them. I’m so glad that they will have this chance to reach their full potential, and I’m certain they will use it well.