There was not a lot of uncertainty in my life growing up. I am very fortunate to be able to say that. Which makes today’s thought even harder for me to perceive.
Brandon WUSC has three new students coming over from South Sudan and Yemen today. They are part of the SRP (Student Refugee Program) thought WUSC (World University Services of Canada) and we are welcoming them at the airport after their long journey from their countries of asylum today.
My heart goes out to our students, who as of right now have been traveling from more than 24 hours. Being from South Africa myself, I know the stress and tire that go along with such travel. However, I NEVER once questioned who would meet me at the airport, where I would sleep when I got there, and the environment I would then be living in. That is certainty that I have always been privileged to.
Although our students receive orientation before they leave their countries of asylum and have to wait a year after acceptance to come to Canada, there is only so much they can learn before they land.
I can’t imagine how I would feel, getting on an airplane, knowing that I wouldn’t see my friends and family again for years. The conflicting emotions of excitement for resettlement but sadness for departure. The strength it must take to put one foot in front of the other as they make the choice for a better life, not only from them, but for their families as well. Like I said, I can’t even fathom that amount of responsibility.
Haideh Moghissi from Queen’s University reflects, “Just imagine, suddenly, you lose everything you have worked for all your life – all the people and things you cherish and love. The experience reduces you to a child and the response of others intensifies that. All of a sudden you have to learn the basics of life again: how to speak, behave, how to interact with people, find a job, learn a skill as if you past education was a slate wiped clean. Whatever you have learned before, all your previous achievements are worth nothing in the country of refuge.”
This quote breaks my heart. It gives me insight into what our new SRP students will feel during their first couple months in Brandon. Although our Local Committee’s are trained to be respectful and sensitive to how she describes feeling, I know that we are far from perfect. Our intentions are always good, but we will never quite understand what our students go through.
I think about the fear and anxiety and excitement that they must be feeling. I hope they believe that they will have a safe, warm, and comfortable place to lay their heads down tonight. I hope they know that we will make sure they can contact their families as soon as possible. I hope that when they see the welcoming committee at the airport that they can know that they are loved.
With all of the uncertainty that our students may have faced until now, I hope that we can provide a measure of certainty. Certainty that they have people in their corner, certainty that if they work hard they will succeed, and certainty that even though they are far from home, Canada is a place where they can still celebrate their own culture.
If you have any questions about the WUSC Student Refugee Program, please reach out to me. Also, please check out https://wusc.ca .