VIU Welcomes Two New Refugee Students

VIU welcomes two new students sponsored in the Student Refugee Program through VIU’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee. The two students, who have lived in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps since they were young children, are (l-r) Aden Mumim and Abdullahi Mohamud.

October 28, 2014 - 9:15am

Travelling from a massive refugee camp in Kenya to study at Vancouver Island University (VIU) signifies an amazing step in a long journey of education and daily struggle for two young men.

Aden Mumin and Abdullahi Mohamud are settling into their studies at VIU and life in Nanaimo as students sponsored by VIU’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee. As the ninth and tenth students sponsored by VIU’s WUSC committee since it was established in 2008/09, Mumin and Abdullahi have risen above the difficulties faced by refugees living in Dadaab’s refugee camps, home to nearly a half million people who have fled war, famine, persecution and hunger in neighbouring countries like Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan.

“In the refugee camps, life is very hard,” says Mumin. “Education is very limited, to go on to high school for example, 2,000 students will write exams to qualify, but only 500 are selected.”

Students who do make it to high school face many obstacles, including hunger that makes it difficult to concentrate on studies, a lack of books, supplies and learning facilities, and no light for evening study.

Mumin arrived at Dadaab from Somalia in 1998 as a small child, along with seven siblings and his parents, while Mohamud arrived in the refugee camp a year later from Ethiopia, also with a family that includes seven brothers and sisters.

The two students are unlikely to complain about a 10-minute walk between classes in the rain at VIU. At Dadaab, they would rise at dawn to run 50 minutes one way to their school, make the trip home for the midday meal, and then make the final trip home at the end of the day.

“That is three hours of traveling on foot and the temperatures are very high,” Mohamud says.

Neither of the young men dwell on the difficult experiences they endured to earn top marks while completing high school and a successful application to the WUSC program. Instead, their eyes brighten and smiles widen as they talk about an opportunity to study at university in Canada, and pursue their dreams – for Mumin, a future career in medicine or engineering; for Mohamud, a future as an engineer or possibly in accounting.

For now, the two are settling into fall semester courses after a later-than-expected arrival mid-September, due to delays with visas that affected all WUSC students arriving across Canada for university studies.

They’re also enjoying the chance to meet WUSC volunteers, community members and classmates, and experience some new activities.

The two new students joined the WUSC committee members for an evening of bowling, with Mohamud earning the top score. “Beginner’s luck,” he says.

The first few weeks of adjusting to life in VIU’s student residence and navigating the community were eye-opening and filled with the culture shock of learning the customs of their new home.

The young men were surprised to watch as students ate snacks and meals on the run, and even in the classroom. They were curious to see people eating alone, and not sharing their food.

“Where I come from, when people are together they share the food,” Mumin says. “You might see a person who is very poor, he has very little, but you see them sharing with others.”

Sharing in their culture extends not only to small things, like a meal together, but also to the long-range opportunity they see to offer what help they can to the people who remain back in Dadaab and other refugee camps.

“We think back to those who never got the chance of learning here, and maybe they can be encouraged,” says Mohamud.” You have to think, what can I do for others in the community who are suffering?”

WUSC local committee co-chair Drissa Bouare, who has been supporting the two young men in their transition to student life at VIU, is hoping the community is inspired by their story, and will provide more help to cover costs that are difficult to meet for the small university group.

VIU’s WUSC local committee, involving students, staff and faculty, makes a commitment that sponsored students’ food, shelter and clothing and other costs are covered adequately during their first year in Canada. One year’s tuition and additional costs are covered by funding from VIU’s International Education department, while an annual student levy helps provide further financial support.

Bouare says the WUSC committee plans to do all it can to raise more financial support for the student refugee program, with a goal to covering costs like accommodation and food so that an additional funded year of tuition can be offered to students coming to VIU through WUSC.

“We are getting a lot of support from the community, but we feel the community can do even more,” he says, adding that offers of accommodation from Nanaimo families, and assistance with food and other student expenses are the kind of support that will make a difference.

For information about the Student Refugee Program, and other WUSC initiatives visit


More Information

Learn more about VIU’s WUSC Local Committee at, on Facebook at, or by email at



Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P:250.740.6443  C: 250.618.1535 E: T: @viunews

Tags: In the Community