Yukon College staff and students work to sponsor a Syrian student refugee

WHITEHORSE – A group of Yukon College staff and students is working to raise funds to sponsor a Syrian student refugee to attend Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse under the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program.

Adult Basic Education coordinator Gabriel Ellis and instructor Martha Burkle, along with Student Engagement Coordinator Allison Furniss and Liberal Arts students Ulrich Trachsel and Matthew Landry have formed a local committee to spearhead fundraising, make a formal application to WUSC, and provide ongoing support to the student once they are living in Whitehorse.

The committee estimates it will take $24,000 in cash and donations to support the individual for one academic year. They have already raised $10,000.

Yukon College Student Union has voted to donate $5000 from their reserve fund, the College has agreed to waive tuition for two semesters, and the Yukon Employee’s Union has also agreed to provide cash support.

Ellis has previous experience with the WUSC program. The unfolding Syrian refugee crisis prompted him to speak to colleagues and students about how the College community could help.

“I worked for WUSC before coming to Yukon and have seen how the Student Refugee Program changes lives,” said Ellis. “It is a fantastic program that has matched student refugees from many countries around the world with educational opportunities in Canada.”

Under the program, WUSC works with the Government of Canada, the UN Refugee Agency and overseas partners to assist with immigration screening, process applications, select students and prepare them for life in Canada. From hundreds of applications an average of 60 students between the ages of 18 and 25 are selected annually.

Ellis is confident the committee will reach its fundraising goal.

“We have a very caring community at Yukon College. I believe we will come together to assist a Syrian student begin a new life in Canada. It may not seem like much, helping one person out of so many, but for that individual it will make a huge difference.”

61 Canadian colleges and universities have welcomed over 1400 sponsored student refugees under the WUSC program since it was established in 1978.