The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is sponsoring Romans Garand, TRU’s first student refugee who is currently enrolled in the engineering program. Jasmine McMillen, one of WUSC’s co-chairs, said that sponsoring Garand was possible through fundraising and included a lot of open mic nights and bake sales.
“We hadn’t quite reached the dollar amount that we needed to sponsor [Garand], but then we were offered a really generous donation from another university out east who is also a part of WUSC and we were able to bring Romans over,” McMillen said.
Garand arrived in Canada in September to start the first year of his degree program.
“I’ve always been fascinated about engineering and love the creativity behind engineering and I want to be among the brains in the engineering department,” he said.
Garand is originally from South Sudan but was living in a refugee camp in Kenya before he came to TRU. The application process took almost a year before Garand was accepted and came over to Canada.
“It wasn’t easy. It’s a very long process. The first turn is getting the right person. They sort through many applicants during that time. Here were 200 and they only needed 20. So, we have to work through a series of interviews where some people get eliminated and then we remain as the lucky ones – I can’t say the best because some are the best but they get left out. So, it depends on the luck. The 20 will then have to go through a series of screenings to see if they are medically fit to travel,” Garand said.
Garand said that he never thought that he would be chosen for something like this. “I was just trying my luck and luckily, I got it,” he said.
Bringing Garand to Canada for a year at TRU was a success for WUSC, and it hopes to continue bringing over student refugees, but the organization’s current model of fundraising is both challenging and unsustainable.
“We are actually in the process of preparing for a referendum to potentially add a program to the university that would make this more sustainable so we could bring over students every year.”
McMillen said that right now, the biggest hurdle is reaching a quorum to so that votes at meetings are binding.
“What they’d be voting for is a levy of roughly two dollars on their tuition, and everyone would pay and the money would pool together to offer this opportunity every single year,” McMillen said.
As of now, WUSC doesn’t have the funds to support Romans for his entire four years at TRU.
“Schools like UBC do have that ability, but if the referendum is successful, it will secure us more funds to also help Romans through the rest of his degree,” McMillen said.
McMillen said this program is important for all universities because it helps students play their role in aiding the refugee crisis and bringing the global community together.
“WUSC is stable at roughly around 130 people coming over every year, but we want to help increase that to 131 every year,” McMillen said.
Romans doesn’t currently have any plans for next year, other than working hard to put his dreams into action.
“I don’t think that I have any, aside from pursuing the goal that I want, and that’s becoming an engineer,” Garand said.
WUSC is hoping to hold this referendum in either January or February. You can follow them on social media for