Nanaimo university pledges support for Syrian refugees

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University announces program to support students from Syria.

The first Syrian refugee student will attend Vancouver Island University in 2016.

The announcement was made Friday, amidst celebrations for World VIU Days annual multicultural festival, as one component of the university’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Money to support a Syrian student will come from the VIU International Refugee Scholarship Fund, initiated by the university’s staff and students, which has received an initial contribution of $10,000 from the VIU Faculty Association and will have ongoing donations to the fund matched at 50 cents on the dollar by the university.

“The International Refugee Support Fund, in particular, is an important initiative and we appreciate your support as we increase that fund and use it for such a good purpose,” said David Witty, VIU vice-president academic, during the announcement.

Goals of the fund include financing and supporting a Syrian refugee through VIU’s local committee of the World University Service of Canada and its Student Refugee Program and provide money to scholarships for university-age children of sponsored refugees who will arrive in Nanaimo in the coming months.

“So now with the Syrian refugee crisis, never since World War 2 have so many people been forcibly displaced from their homes,” said Jessyca Idi, World University Service of Canada committee member. “There is an urgency to take action. The need is immense, but we can make a difference. By sponsoring a single refugee we are saving a life. We are making a new life possible.”

VIU will also join and support the Scholars at Risk Program, which helps academics forced to flee violence or persecution in their homelands and provides opportunities for them to study and teach at universities abroad.

Foreign students from more than 80 countries come to study in Nanaimo and make up 17 per cent of VIU student enrolment.