World University Service Canada’s (WUSC) Trent branch has just been honoured for its student refugee program. Awarded Local Committee of the Year, Trent WUSC was deemed the best out of 63 other Canadian universities with student refugee programs. WUSC Co-Chair Dorothy Cheng sat down with Arthur to tell us a little bit more about WUSC, and why they need you to get involved. WUSC has brought 48 refugess to Trent, from 12 different countries.
DM: What is WUSC, what do you do?
DC: WUSC is the World University Service of Canada. It was founded around the time of the Second World War to handle what was the largest refugee crisis the world had ever seen. Since then, issues of international development have continued to primarily plague the Global South, and WUSC thus expanded its service up to this date, where it continues to lead global programs that seeks to address poverty, violence, inequality, and other issues. At Trent, the biggest program is the Student Refugee Program, which brings in two students from refugee camps across the globe to study at Trent, with their first year fully sponsored and subsequent years partially sponsored.
DM: Why did you get started with WUSC?
DC: I’m from Malaysia, which has an incredibly multicultural, multinational landscape, but also a very unequal landscape. Due to our geographical location, over the years refugees from the region have used Malaysia as a stop-off point. But because of government policies and societal prejudices, refugees basically have no rights and are frequently mistreated. Early in my high school career I was exposed to this through some charity work, and since then I have been committed to the issue and found that WUSC perfectly caters to that.
DM: You won the award for your recruiting, support and transition work. What does this work entail, and why do you think Trent WUSC was the best? What made you stand out?
DC: We have worked hard to acquire waivers from the university that has greatly reduced costs of the sponsorship per student. This allows us to free up more of the budget to improve the students’ quality of life and expand their sponsorship beyond the first year. This makes for an overall more sustainable program and gives the students a better head-start. In addition, we also produced a documentary not only highlighting the work we do, but to showcase what life in Peterborough as a refugee is like: what the challenges of transition are, what the misconceptions and myths around refugees are, and how the community has risen to the occasion to respond to refugees.
DM: Which single thing that WUSC has done are you most proud of?
DC: It would certainly have to be acquiring waivers from Trent and expanding the sponsorship model past the first year. This puts our program on par with much bigger schools such as UBC, and guarantees that we will be able to accommodate this program at a high level of quality indefinitely. This is the most important aspect of our work: to address the needs of our students and consistently improve their experience so they get the most out of their sponsorship.
DM: What obstacles does WUSC face?
DC: Being in a relatively small school, funding can be an issue. The program is primarily funded through a non-refundable student levy, but beyond that it is difficult to engage a smaller community in active and impactful fundraising efforts. In addition, it can be quite difficult to recruit new members for the executive team as we are rather low profile and can slip under the radar of many students, since so much of the work we do is behind the scenes.
DM: What can WUSC do to improve?
DC: WUSC at Trent can certainly benefit from being more known in the community. We are working to continuously spread the word about our organization and engage the community to participate or at least learn about the program.
DM: What can students do to help? What can Arthur do?
DC: WUSC at Trent is always looking for new members to be part of the executive team. In addition, we hold small events throughout the year just to raise a little bit of money for the local committee, and we would love to see more Trent students participate.
DM: What are your plans for the future?
DC: We will be hosting a screening and panel for our documentary some time in late March at a downtown location and welcome everyone in the community to this event. Do look out for more information on this matter on our social media or in Arthur in the weeks to come!
If you are interested in joining WUSC, please email [email protected]