By Chris Eaton
On World Refugee Day 2015 (June 20), events around the world recognize the more than 50 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. It is a day to reflect on the strength and resilience of the millions who have fled their countries and we acknowledge the efforts of individuals and groups who are devoted to supporting refugee populations. Prolonged conflict, war, violence, religious and ethnic persecution, and natural disasters are factors that drive the global refugee crisis and are the cause for severe human suffering and development challenges.
Of the tens of millions displaced, the vast majority are under 35 years of age. Refugee youth face uncertainty for their futures and the future of their countries and communities. World University Service of Canada (WUSC) seeks to provide much-needed support and resources to refugee youth with its mission of creating education, employment, and opportunities for youth around the world.
WUSC's Student Refugee Program (SRP) was developed to address the lack of higher education programs available to refugee youth. To date, the program has sponsored more than 1500 students for enrollment in Canadian universities and colleges with a 92 per cent overall graduation rate. The SRP is the only program in the world that combines post-secondary education with resettlement, demonstrating a successful model for resettlement and integration of refugee youth.
We believe that the success of the program is attributed to the unique youth-to-youth model through which young Canadians sponsor refugee students to their university, college or Cégep. With support from WUSC, students groups, known as local committees, sponsor refugee youth in enrollment in university and provide guidance for orientation and integration into the community. SRP students have the academic and personal resources to become active citizens of Canadian society; some return to their home countries to employ their education to support governance and development.
WUSC's programs, such as the SRP, aim to promote international development for an equitable and sustainable world. Access to quality education is essential to this aim and enables refugee youth to building strong communities and effect positive social change for future generations.
The WUSC program commends the efforts of international, national and local entities that are working to provide support to the millions who have been forced from their homes. With a refugee population that is growing in size and need, a collective global effort must address long-term and sustainable solutions for the problems faced by displaced persons. We encourage Canadian organizations and society groups to employ education in their programs and initiatives as it largely contributes in constructing not only successful resettlements and integrations, but also better future for young refugees to have access to opportunities. At WUSC, we believe that promoting education and resettlement opportunities for refugee youth is a priority that will yield long-term benefits for international development.
Chris Eaton is Executive Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC), an international development NGO based in Ottawa, ON. For more information, visit www.wusc.ca
The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of CCIC or its membersMORE ON HUFFPOST:
U.S. sailors aboard the USS Bataan embark a group of refugees and asylum seekers onto the ship in June of 2014. Bataan transferred 277 people to an Armed Forces of Malta offshore patrol vessel. Bataan and the USS Elrod rendered assistance to persons in distress and provided food, water, medical attention, and temporary shelter to 282 persons after receiving a report that an Italian military marine patrol aircraft sighted six small vessels, one of which was sinking. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chase Hawley)
Boatswain's mates aboard the USS Bataan transport a person in distress on a medical litter off the 11-meter captain's gig into the well deck of USS Bataan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Michael J. Lieberknecht)
In south Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers process unaccompanied children after they have crossed the border into the United States. (Hector Silva — Customs and Border Protection)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers gather information from unaccompanied children and others after they crossed the border into the United States. (Barry Bahler — Customs and Border Protection)
Asylum seekers, including children, are helped from a launch on the Jetty at Flying Fish Cove on Australia's Christmas Island before being taken the Island’s Immigration Detention Centre. (Oliver White/Jesuit Refugee Service)
Australian authorities check newly arrived refugees on a dock on Australia's Christmas Island. (Oliver White/Jesuit Refugee Service)
Over the years, the refugee community of Nairobi has gotten used to living in the shadows. When militants attack, the Kenyan government further restricts refugee liberties, scapegoating the survivors of conflict and persecution. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Jesuit Refugee Service in Kenya serves urban refugees via an emergency needs program in Nairobi. Most of the world's displaced people now live in urban areas. Although the quality of services and availability of jobs may be better than for those refugees confined to a camp, urban refugees face a myriad of obstacles ranging from xenophobia to detention. JRS works to ensure that the most vulnerable urban refugees do not fall through the cracks. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
A lost boat found carrying Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants in the Andaman Sea. The Rohingya people are fleeing Myanmar due to persecution and are not considered citizens by the Myanmar government. Pope Francis recently said, “Hospitality in itself isn't enough. It’s not enough to give a sandwich if isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough.” (Thapanee Letsrichai)
A Rohingya refugee pleads with a military officer for more aid after being found in the Andaman Sea. JRS believes that accompanying refugees and being there for them bears witness to our common humanity — listening to the unheard and soft spoken is a cornerstone of accompanying refugees to ensure they are shown hospitality and are treated with dignity. (Thapanee Letsrichai)
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