Laurier and Waterloo-Kitchener region both doing their part to help incoming refugees

Photo by Darien Funk

Community-based organizations in Waterloo have started a fund to help incoming refugees settle in the region.

The Immigration Partnership Fund was created after an influx of arrivals from Afghanistan and works to help groups in the community bolster the services they offer to refugees entering Canada.  

One of the joint founders of the fund, Immigration Partnership, has also helped with Wilfrid Laurier University’s  refugee programs and international student services.

WLU has long had programs to help incoming refugees overcome  the barriers faced when  arriving in a new country. These include the 1991 Student Refugee Scholarship Program and  the largely student-led club International Students Overcoming War which came about during the Syrian refugee crisis.

The challenges faced by incoming refugee students can range from adjusting to the  language barrier or recent developments such as  remote learning. 

Many  students are also supporting their families as they attend university, something these organizations can help with.

“They have to leave what they know, come to Canada, they have to have their own experiences, […] but they’re doing all that they can to also send money back home for their families,” Candace Stewart-Smith, the international student academic transition advisor at Laurier International said.

She also noted how acclimating to a new country and university life has been made more difficult by the introduction of remote learning. 

“[Part of our work is] ensuring that students are technologically capable of accessing online courses or of being comfortable with that sort of learning […] these students may not have been too familiar with technology, so that would have been a huge barrier for them to overcome, additional to the settling, additional to starting university classes,” Stewart-Smith said.

A lot of the work done for incoming student refugees at Laurier is handled by the World University Service of Canada. Students already on campus can volunteer to take direct part through the WUSC Local Committee. 

The WUSC Local Committee has worked to help  new arrivals, boost fundraising , and raise awareness among the student body about global issues. Students who are involved have described it as a rewarding and eye-opening experience. More information on the Immigration Partnership Fund can be found on the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation’s website. Laurier’s Local Committee can be reached through their email at wlu.wusc@gmail.com for Waterloo, or laurierbrantfordwusc@gmail.com for Brantford.

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