Each year, Local Committees mobilize from coast to coast to coast, to sponsor refugee students, support their integration, and develop relationships across cultures and learn from each other. This has been a challenging year considering the pandemic, however Local Committees continue to build more welcoming communities for all newcomers.
Over 60 Local Committees across the country have worked tirelessly over the past several months to prepare to welcome over 100 students this winter through our Student Refugee Program. The Campus Team is feeling so energized and inspired by the dedication, generosity and enthusiasm that Local Committees continue to demonstrate despite the challenging context and extra barriers this year has posed for sponsorship groups!
Local Committees have also been as innovative as ever this year to support SRP students during the mandatory 14-day quarantine after their arrival to Canada. The McGill University Local Committee, provided wrapped holiday gifts for incoming SRP students and decorated their quarantine rooms with motivational posters to help them through the two weeks in isolation! Other Local Committees have planned virtual social events, games and movie nights to help SRP students feel as connected to their new communities as possible.
We also want to recognize the Local Committees that went above and beyond their usual sponsorship commitment to ensure as many students as possible can arrive this year: Carleton University, St. Francis Xavier University, Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, Alexander College, University of Manitoba, University of Toronto – New College/UTSU, Lakehead University, York University – Glendon campus, and Memorial University of Newfoundland. Thank you for your fast mobilization to secure additional sponsorships!
We are thrilled that our 42nd cohort of SRP students have been able to arrive and continue their post-secondary journey in Canada, despite the delay we faced in August. We are looking forward to continuing to support Local Committees and SRP students through the next 12 months!
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Meet Quyen Dam
Meet Quyen Dam, a long-time WUSC volunteer and e-volunteer from Saugeen Shores in Ontario. Since 2018, he has been taking on different volunteer opportunities with WUSC through WUSC’s Volunteer Cooperation Program (VCP). The VCP program is a government-funded program that offers skilled Canadians the opportunity to participate in Canada’s international development assistance efforts while working alongside local partners and communities.
In his current role as e-Volunteer Support Advisor for WUSC in Vietnam, some of his duties include undertaking public engagement activities, and providing support in the revision of key volunteer orientation documents, in promoting WUSC’s volunteer opportunities and partners on different channels, and in training and managing volunteers.
Quyen thinks his most important impact is the support he has provided to all the volunteers he has met during his past and present assignments. He was part of the cohort of international volunteers whose return back to Canada had to be rushed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and that experience did not fade his enthusiasm for volunteering: through an e-volunteer assignment, he was able to continue to support other fellow returned volunteers.
He explains how giving back to his country of origin while making the link with his country of adoption fuels his volunteer ambitions and motivations: “Those two years that I volunteered in Vietnam were life changing. […] Canadians opened their arms to thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the late ’70s, including my family. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to return to my roots and give back to my Vietnamese community. […] Volunteering in Vietnam has also allowed me to further embrace my heritage.”
This month, he will be taking a new role as Hospitality Advisor for one of WUSC’s partners in Vietnam – Bac Thang Long (BTL) Technical College. His new challenge will involve contributing to the development of restaurant training programs, making sure programs follow international standards and enable students to acquire practical skills and consolidate their knowledge.
Quyen finds that his volunteer experiences have fostered his personal and professional development and vows to continue volunteering to contribute to improved opportunities for young people and women. “I want to pay forward the opportunities I received upon arriving in Canada as a refugee and continue to help interconnect my two cultures,” he said.
In order to get through difficult times, including the current pandemic, he recommends following his example, and staying engaged, connected and active with our different communities.
Are you also making a difference in your community? Share your story and connect with us on social media using the hashtag #WUSCSomeGoodNews.
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E-volunteering and contributing to global development from home during the pandemic
While COVID-19 has heightened social pressures and increased inequalities around the world, it has shown us the importance of working together with our international partners and intensifying our efforts to address these challenges. This is why we adapted quickly in the wake of the pandemic to support our partners in Africa and Asia. Supporting our partners through the efforts of our Canadian e-volunteers has been key to continuing our work on advancing long-lasting solutions for today’s most important global development issues.
This is why the work of organizations likeThere is Hope – an organization in Malawi that supports refugees and the host community to overcome poverty and become self-reliant – is so important. There is Hope provides new education and income-generating activities for refugees that normally have limited opportunities in Malawi. Kibébé, for example, a social enterprise registered by There is Hope since 2017, aims to create employment especially for women and to provide quality environmentally friendly goods and services, nationally and internationally. Kibébé donates all of its profits to vocational training programs and college scholarships for refugees by There is Hope.
Switching gears to make meaningful change during a time of crisis
Florian Leclerq, e-volunteer and Business Development Advisor with There is Hope in Malawi is a great example of the impact of volunteering internationally even if done remotely from the comfort of your own home.
Florian, a French-born permanent resident of Canada, worked for many years as a Business Advisor in the private sector. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he decided it was time to make a meaningful change in his life; he decided to quit his job and start his Master’s Degree in global development. But he did not stop there: he wanted to use his business experience and newly acquired knowledge of global development to make a change in the world. This is why he decided to apply as an e-volunteer with an international partner. For him, it was the perfect opportunity to not only share his skills in business but also to learn about a new country and culture.
Florian started his e-volunteering placement in August and recently finished in December 2020. During his assignment his main objective was to develop new programs and pursue funding opportunities to support refugees and their host community become self-reliant. Florian’s specific tasks involved researching new suppliers, finding logistic partners, and exporting legislation. He also provided assistance in marketing initiatives to a number of different regional audiences, developed proposals, and responded to funding opportunity calls.
Although four months was short for Florian to achieve his main goal of finding a fitting supplier in Africa that is environmentally friendly and that has reasonable costs, he was able to find an opportunity: a potential company in Burkina Faso that could become one of Kibébé’s partners in manufacturing organic fabric. This could represent a milestone achievement in terms of a South-South partnership between two African countries, that could work together in creating an enabling environment for women’s entrepreneurship development and gender equality, and ultimately foster sustainable trade practices for the exchange of goods and services.
“E-volunteering permits you to travel from home”
In the end, despite the fact that e-volunteering has not permitted Florian to truly experience the culture of Malawi, he feels like it has still been a life-changing experience, a “valuable opportunity for volunteers to gain and advance their professional skills and experience and grow their network.” Florian tells us that e-volunteering gave him comfort in changing his career: “It gave me a real sense to my job by supporting and working with local partners to improve their strategy. It felt good to finally be able to give back.”
For him, the most rewarding thing about this experience is that “it permits you to travel from home, learn from a new country, partner and a good way for you to personally give a sense to your free time.” It hasn’t been without its difficulties; “balancing between my full time job, my personal life and my work with There is Hope, was the biggest challenge.” Notwithstanding these challenges, he mentions that he was successful in overcoming them thanks to his listening, understanding, flexibility and adaptability skills.
Florian’s advice to people looking into volunteering: “go for it, it will be rewarding and you will always learn something.” By supporting There is Hope and Kibébé through his expertise in business development, Florian definitely left his mark: the organization is now better-placed to grow its social enterprise in an eco-inclusive way and to continue to improve the conditions of refugees while providing more opportunities for women refugees in Malawi.
The IGNI+E (Innovative Global Networks for Inclusion + Equality) initiative, funded by Global Affairs Canada, supports over 70 partner organizations to advance gender equality and the economic empowerment of 1.2 million youth around the world. IGNI+E harnesses the knowledge, capacity and expertise of skilled Canadians through volunteer assignments and public engagement activities to assist partners in improving their performance, advocating for gender equality, and implementing more sustainable, innovative and inclusive initiatives and services for poor and marginalised youth, particularly young women. Join us! Click here to see all our current e-volunteer opportunities.