WUSC Club introduces Student Refugee Program

Two former child refugees share how the program has transformed their lives

As part of last week’s IDays celebrations, the Actors Workshop Theatre hosted Mach, who told his story of survival in Kenya amongst both refugees and rebels and how the WUSC program gave him a new life. (Submitted)

As part of the TRU IDays Celebration, The  World University Services of Canada Club (WUSC) introduced its Refugee Student Sponsorship Programme in the Actors Workshop Theatre, on March 8.

The event featured two African speakers who presented under the theme: Two Students, Two Stories, Two Futures.

Daniel Riach Mach was the first speaker. Now working as an engineer in Winnipeg, Mach explained that he wanted to share his own story, to show what it could mean to the next student the TRU community may sponsor.

“It all began in a little village in South Sudan, as a child I went from an army camp, to a refugee camp, to a university campus,” he explained.

Raised in a family of farmers and cattle keepers, Mach said that he was about to begin blacksmith training, but his aspirations were cut short after his village was attacked.

“It was chaos, the sound of guns, smoke, wailing of women, children crying. I panicked and ran away, leaving my mother,” he said.

Mach explained that after the dust had settled he had realized that everyone else was with family, but he was alone.

“I was in the bushes for two weeks unable to find my family. When I finally got back  home, everyone had already left the village, my mom included,” he said.

Mach explained that children  who could not be reunited with  their families were placed under the care of the Rebels.

“They put us into small camps and called us the red army where we trained and went to school,” he said.

Mach said he was about 12 when a teacher asked him to escape with him. Taking his chances, they fled the camp and crossed the border to Kenya, where they settled in another refugee camp.

Mach explained that it was there where he learnt about the WUSC program.

“I started to study hard and in grade 12 I became the top student,”  he said. “I was interviewed  then selected by the University of Manitoba, so I came to Canada in 2008 and  got a degree in Mechanical Engineering.”

Mach now works at the water treatment plant and thinks of it as repaying  a service.

“I call it the educational ripple effect, I didn’t have anything before, but now I am able to help my brother finish college,” he said.

The second speaker, Romans Manyiel Garang, is TRU’s very first student from the student refugee program.

“My country always had conflict, so I went to a refugee camp  with my uncle when I was 7 and decided to use the situation to my advantage,” he said.

Garang said that after some time, he decided to give education a try, one of the best decisions he has ever made.

“They noticed my height and I received a basketball scholarship for 4 years until 2013, when I graduated,” he said.

Garang said he could not afford to attend college so he stayed with a schoolmate until they were ambushed. After that Garang said he went back to the refugee camp and became a teacher at one of the primary schools.

He said he had felt guilty because he knew that the other teachers were not as good as he was, but he recognized that they were trying to make a difference.

“I realized that I was better than most of the teachers there because I had studied outside of the camp,” he said.

However, Garang explained that the teaching conditions were unbearable. There were about 5000 students, compared to only 17 teachers and they were all meant to function in one classroom.

“I complained a lot and was threatened and locked up, but after 2 years I was given a call  and sent to the United Nations Headquarters where I made my presentation,” he said.

Garang said he didn’t apply for the student refugee program until 2016, explaining that he didn’t believe he would get in because there were over 200 applicants and only 20 would be selected.

Jasmine McMillen, a member of the TRU WUSC Local Committee,  explained that  TRU  has struggled for years to get the program running. However, the WUSC Refugee Referendum, proposed to raise student tuition in order to provide a levy for the student refugee program, is confirmed for next fall.