TRU to support students affected by climate disasters

New Disaster Relief Fund will give students in crisis peace of mind while studying

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) is working with alumni and donors to fund one year of post-secondary and related expenses for current and future students who are impacted by climate-related disasters. 

The Disaster Relief Fund will provide safe housing and tuition support for displaced students.

This summer, the B.C. Interior experienced extreme heat and devastating wildfires that impacted thousands across the region. Residents of Lytton, Monte Lake and more throughout the Thompson Nicola and North Okanagan lost their homes and communities.

“The devastating and unprecedented wildfires have left many families homeless,” Kevin Loring, TRU Distinguished Alumnus, said, “These students need help to get them started in a good way, to help them get that education they need to go out into the world and make it a better place for all of us.”

Loring and his organization Savage Society initiated a fundraising campaign following the devastation in Lytton on June 30. Learning of several students from the rural town who planned to attend university, Loring and Honorary Doctorate recipient Lori March and contacted TRU to support them in assisting graduates of Kumsheen ShchEma-meet School.

Loring, who was born and raised in Lytton, B.C. is hopeful that these funds will help those affected by the disaster a fresh start. 

TRU has been working to identify students that have been displaced by these natural disasters and provide them with safe housing and financial help to ensure they would be able to pursue their post-secondary education. 

Lytton resident and evacuee Alexis Aleck-Brown, who is a first-year student and the first student to receive support through the Disaster Relief Fund. With the help of the community, she has been able to begin her heavy mechanical trades training this past July and live safely on campus. 

As these disasters are not the first to hit close to home for TRU students, the university recognizes the long-term need for this relief fund. Every year, more and more students are faced with challenges far out of their control due to the growing number of climate-related disasters.

“Kevin and Lori stepped forward to help the residents of Lytton this summer and TRU is working to make funds available for any future students who are similarly impacted,” said Associate Vice-President Advancement Kim Cassar Torreggiani. “These students have experienced a traumatic event. We want them to have a safe place to live and fewer university costs, so they can still pursue education and have one less thing to worry about.”

As the fire seasons continue to shock us, TRU has two wildfire researchers based on campus. Mike Flannigan is currently sitting as the new British Columbia Research Chair in Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science and incoming faculty member Jill Harvey, who has been granted a Canadian Research Chair in Fire Ecology; investigating how wildfires and drought impact forests in the B.C. Interior.

“The severity and intensity of these recent fire seasons in B.C. are a result of human-caused climate change,” Flannigan said. “As we continue to warm due to human-caused climate change, we will see more wildfire.”