International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) goes to Parliament to advocate for scholars in areas of conflict

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Last week, Wilfrid Laurier University’s student-run organization International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) took a trip to Parliament Hill to promote and advocate for their work concerning scholars from international areas of conflict.

ISOW currently supports 14 international scholars from Syria, Egypt and Lebanon, who are working to complete either their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Their organization is providing full, student-funded scholarships for these students, without which would have to put their educations on hold. 

The 10 scholars and 17 executives who were able to attend ISOW’s trip contributed to presenting a dialogue to our political representatives regarding policies and mandates that directly concern international students and specifically, international students coming from regions in the world currently experiencing armed conflicts. 

ISOW went to Ottawa two years ago as a generalized trip for students to become more acquainted with the infrastructure of the Canadian government.

“This time we went with an ‘ask.’ We went to present ISOW to different ministers and senators, asking if the government somehow could match the funds that we’ve been raising as a Laurier Community to provide more scholarships over the next five years,” said Paula Belliveau, director of events for ISOW. 

“Our main goal was to spread the idea of ISOW to the government … we wanted to find additional avenues for partnership with the government,” said Maria Almhana, a Laurier international scholar from Syria. 

Laurier’s ISOW scholarships are funded by ancillary fees as a contribution from each student’s yearly invoice. Based on ISOW’s funding, the goal of this excursion was to present such success to ministers and hopefully receive additional financial support from the government in order to provide scholarships to more international students at Laurier. 

“We met with representatives from [ministries such as] foreign affairs and immigration and international development,” Belliveau said. 

“We attended [the] Prime Minister’s question period, Citizenship and Immigration Committee and Justice and Human Rights Committee,” Almhana said. 

“The government was impressed by the idea of how the contribution of only four-dollars by Laurier students was able to help students from conflict zones.”

ISOW came back to Laurier with validation of their mission by the many ministers and senators that took the time to listen to them and engage in discussion. 

“We realized how unique ISOW is — it doesn’t really fit the mold of any one ministry … and that was really empowering to hear,” Belliveau said. 

“We learned that if there’s a goal we need to achieve, we have to go and do it ourselves … We were able to meet with politicians and that they were willing to hear about our experiences, hear about ISOW — and know that they are passionate about what we are doing.”

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