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UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 4| Apr. 1, 2004

Refugee Program Creates Global Citizens

By Cristina Calboreanu

From its inception, the WUSC Student Refugee Program has changed the lives of more than 700 student refugees by providing opportunities for them to resume their studies and live a secure and prosperous life, but its influence goes even further.

“We talk about the sponsored students and how their lives have changed, but our lives change as well,” says Syma Khan, chair of WUSC-UBC. “You learn about these issues in class or you see them on the news, but to actually meet someone who has lived through political instability and who has lived in the refugee camps and to be able to interact with them on a personal level and to become friends is really amazing and really enlightening.”

“The partnership with university campuses is what makes the student refugee program unique. Students and university leadership across Canada are leveraging more than $1 million every year to make the program possible,” says Barbara Levine, director of Canadian Programs and Partnerships at the WUSC office in Ottawa. “This program helps activate the human and intellectual resources of the university, especially the capacity and commitment of Canadian students, and it also goes towards helping Canada meet its international obligations in terms of refugee resettlement.”

A recent impact study of participants in the program between 1978 and 2000 found that both sponsored students and volunteers with the local committees have significantly higher rates of civic participation and leadership, including volunteering, membership in civic organizations, and political participation, than the average Canadian citizen. For Levine, that means that the program is achieving its goals.

“We do not see the student refugee program as an end in itself,” she explains. “It has always been about creating opportunities for people to understand their responsibilities as global citizens. It’s about creating active citizens who understand that their obligations go beyond their immediate family and local community.”

With UBC placing a high emphasis on promoting global awareness and citizenship, Levine sees inspiring opportunities for WUSC to work with the UBC administration.

“We’re very excited about the initiatives that UBC has taken around global citizenship, and we look forward to working together,” says Levine. “There are real challenges for universities in terms of what internationalization means, because it’s about transforming our institutions and transforming ourselves to be better, more engaged citizens of the world.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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