By contributor Chantelle Spicer

In light of the Syrian civil war, many of the country’s citizens now find themselves seeking sanctuary in other countries, with millions of people now separated from their homeland and culture. Under the new Liberal government of Canada, we open our doors to those seeking refuge from this crisis, offering a doorway into a new kind of life for many. This is not an easy thing for those new to Canada, who are submerged into a new culture, for many a new language, and exponential financial burdens.

In November of 2015, VIU announced that the institution would be supporting refugee students from Syria, committing to doing everything possible to assist the refugees who have fled civil war in their country. This includes the creation of the VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund and supporting the Scholars at Risk Program, which would assist those whose education has been disrupted due to the violent situation.

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Left to right: WUSC co-chairs Hamdi Aweys and Jessyca Idi.

To help aid in the goal of continuing education for Syrian students, International Development Week at VIU, which takes pla
ce from February 2 to 5, will feature many events to raise global awareness on this and other issues. The Worldbridger Film Series, a free movie series hosted every term at VIU, will be showcasing A Requiem for Syrian Refugees, directed by Richard Wolf. This is a fundraiser event, with all donations going to VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund, which will go towards sponsorship of a Syrian student through VIU’s World University Service of Canada (WUSC) committee. This student will be arriving to VIU in September of 2016.

Worldbridger Film Series is open to everyone. Movies are shown every Thursday night at 7 p.m. in bldg. 356, rm. 109. This series uses the art of film to raise awareness of many global issues and cultures, including war and peace, human rights, gender, and music.  By exploring these issues, it creates space for bringing together those with different perspectives and expanding the mind into different realities of being human.

VIU WUSC will also be hosting two other events during International Development Week.

On February 1, WUSC, along with several other clubs and groups involved in development and social justice, will host a booth on volunteer opportunities through the club, where the theme will be global youth employment. This event will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the upper cafeteria.

“We will talk about humanitarian projects and opportunities for students interested in travelling abroad and show how we can connect them,” said WUSC co-chair Jessyca Idi. “In some situations, there is the possibility of these opportunities adding to their credits.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.30.42 PMOn February 2, WUSC, along with VIU’s Syrian Refugee Response Committee, the City of Nanaimo, and the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society will host “Stories of Migration.” Here, several refugees living in the community will tell their stories of how they came to Nanaimo; in addition, there will be time for open conversation on how to get involved or provide support for refugees. VIU WUSC’s own co-chair Hamdi Aweys will tell her story of how she lived in Somalia, entered a Kenyan refugee camp, and became a sponsored student through WUSC (see page eight for more on her story).

“I was surprised there are so many initiatives and families in Nanaimo,” said Idi. “There are so many things happening now. For example, the multicultural society is very involved with sponsoring families. Our main focus is usually on campus, but the community is also very important, so we want to work on reaching out more.”

Stories of Migration will take place at the Shaw Auditorium in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre from 7 to 9 p.m.

All International Development Week events are free and open to the public. The full schedule of events and more information can be found online. For questions regarding WUSC, email Idi.