November 27, 2013 - 7:20am

A committee of Vancouver Island University (VIU) students, faculty and staff working to promote global understanding while supporting refugee students attending VIU has won a national award.

VIU’s WUSC (World University Service of Canada) Local Committee was awarded the Local Committee of the Year at WUSC’s 2013 International Forum in Ottawa Nov. 3. One of more than 80 Local Committees on college and university campuses across Canada, the VIU’s WUSC committee was formed in 2008 by four Global Studies students, Kalila Wilkinsin, Laura Albion, Katie Durvin and Celia White.

Roseanna Sowten, who co-chairs the committee with former refugee student Aden Ahmed, says the support of the Nanaimo community has been one of the key factors behind the VIU WUSC Local Committee’s success.

“It’s great to see that the community has a soft spot for helping VIU locally as well as internationally, by helping us bring refugee students here,” Sowten says.

Sowten and fellow committee member Natasha Buck also credit the work of the 10 to 15 committee members, along with a big network of VIU students, faculty and staff in raising both awareness and funds to support the group’s work.

“Our committee is unique in that we have to fundraise in order to bring our refugee students here,” says Buck, who attended the award presentation in Ottawa. “With our small, core membership, the WUSC national board said it was quite impressive how much we get done and how much we are able to grow every year.”

The VIU WUSC Local Committee has sponsored eight refugee students since its inception in 2008, including two new students, Hamdi Aweys from Somalia, and Elizabeth Aduu from South Sudan, who began university studies this fall. Both young women had spent many years living in refugee camps in Kenya.

VIU’s WUSC Local Committee sponsors students’ food, shelter and clothing and other costs during their first year in Canada. Tuition and additional costs are covered by funding from VIU’s International Education department, while an annual student levy of 72 cents per student through the VIU Students’ Union (VIUSU) helps provide further financial support. Committee volunteers hold several fundraising events throughout the year, including the annual Harambee Gala Dinner in the spring semester, to raise additional money to support student refugees.

Graham Pike, VIU’s Dean of International Education, says the award is well deserved.

“This acknowledges the excellent work done by the committee over a number of years, with great support from faculty,” Pike says. “WUSC staff in Ottawa are very impressed by what VIU has achieved in a short period of time.”


Media Contact

Shari Bishop Bowes, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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

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