Syrian refugee children receive a helping hand
The world watched in wonderment as Canada rolled out the welcome mat for Syrian refugees, who began arriving one year ago this month. Among the people waiting at the airport was Mubashir Khalid, an employee of Centennial College and a spokesperson for the humanitarian relief organization Humanity First.
Khalid recognized the bewilderment and the weariness on the faces of the newcomers. He had made a similar trip to Canada with his own family three decades earlier, forced to flee Libya after the government abruptly banned foreigners from working there (Khalid’s family was originally from Pakistan).
As a place of higher learning and one that is committed to teaching global citizenship and social equity principles, Centennial College had pledged to get involved directly with the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.
This fall, Centennial's School of Advancement organized a Holiday Drive fundraising activity to provide backpacks to 50 children of Syrian refugees living in Toronto. Each backpack contains school supplies, mittens, scarves, hats, socks and gift cards. College employees flocked to buy raffle tickets to raise money for the gifts.
The appreciative families gathered at the Humanity First food bank on Sunday, December 11 to collect their backpacks and celebrate with organizers. Centennial President Ann Buller helped to distribute the gifts and hug the children, many of whom were speaking some English after only a year in local schools. Also on hand were the Honourable Minister of Science, Kristy Duncan, and the Mayor of Vaughan, Mauizio Bevilacqua. The warmth and elation in the room were infectious.
The event is just one example of what the college is doing to help Syrians resettle in Canada. Centennial partnered with the World University Service of Canada to sponsor a Syrian student refugee and furnish him with a one-year academic scholarship. Mohammad Barbor arrived in August to begin his studies in Marketing - Corporate Account Management, a graduate certificate program. By all accounts, the affable young man is doing well and is delighted to be residing in Toronto.
Centennial has committed to providing 10 additional Syrian refugees with tuition waivers for one year of study, beginning next fall. The college has set up a platform for employees to donate funds that will support the Syrian refugee students so they can purchase food, clothing, and pay for other expenses.
Centennial organized its Conversations for Social Change learning initiatives at each campus to further engage the college community as global citizens to address the crises of displaced people throughout the world.
The campus discussion panels and mural project – even a unique "Soup4Syria" luncheon – were part of Displaced Persons Awareness Week, organized by the college’s Centre for Global Citizenship Education and Inclusion. It was an opportunity for Centennial students, some of whom had never known displacement caused by war and political strife, to hear first-hand what a refugee must contend with to survive.