World University Service of Canada at York holds fundraiser at El Mocambo

It’s a record any student organization would envy. For nearly 20 years, the York University chapter of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) has been helping student refugees gain a university education they might otherwise never get due to poverty. With offices at both the Keele and Glendon campuses and working with the University of Toronto WUSC chapter, this local all-volunteer, student-run initiative is organizing a BandAid 2010 benefit concert April 1 to raise funds that will assist the families of refugee students currently in refugee camps.

Right: Luzayo Nyirongo (left), Charly Soza and Jabir Alidina, members of the local WUSC committee, await the arrival of this year’s sponsored student, Patrick Isingizwe

“It’s a really fun event for a great cause. We plan to have around 15 acts at the El Mocambo downtown. They’re donating their venue and we’ll be ‘passing the hat’, so to speak to gather funds to provide teachers in the Dadaab Refugee Camps in Northeast Kenya,” says Kate Baker del Aguila, co-chair of York’s WUSC office. “We will have a mash-up of talent and genres. Some rock, some reggae, some spoken word, and lots more. The full list includes a selection of over 15 live performances and spoken word.”

WUSC@York has changed lives for the better. Since 1985, it has sponsored 17 students. Of those, 15 have graduated and two are still studying. WUSC co-chair Charly Soza was himself a sponsored refugee. “WUSC has taught me that university students can make a huge difference in the lives of others. WUSC is a small window that opens great opportunities to higher education and this has motivated me to help keep the program alive,” says Soza.

WUSC is an Ottawa-based non-profit, non-governmental organization – a network of individuals and postsecondary institutions who believe that all people are entitled to the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to a more equitable world. It implements the Student Refugee Program and collaborates with host government agencies in developing nations to help student refugees resettle in Canada as permanent residents. A university student levy supplies the funding. Its mission is to foster human development and global understanding through education and training.

“We are making a difference, I think," says Baker del Aguila. "There are a lot of good people here working hard to help fellow students get a better chance in life. We get basic funding through an undergraduate student levy of three cents per credit. It’s not a lot of money per student, but the pennies add up to give fellow students the opportunity of a lifetime.

“WUSC@York is most closely affiliated with the Student Refugee Program which provides students of previous refugee status with a chance for higher education. Of the 80 universities and colleges across Canada which partake in this initiative, York University has continued to provide a full 12-month sponsorship funded by the student levy.”

Right: 2008-2009 WUSC-sponsored student Joseph Monnywiir (left) and WUSC@York co-chair Kate Baker del Aguila

WUSC was founded in the 1920s as the International Student Service and became the World University Service of Canada in the 1950s. It manages technical assistance programs for host governments and donor agencies in developing nations. It also manages education and training needs of international students on scholarships in Canada. The group is also involved in the 8 Goals to Make Poverty History campaign, which was launched following the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000.

BandAid 2010 will take place Thursday, April 1 at the El Mocambo, 464 Spadina Ave. in Toronto. The doors open at 8pm and the show will start at 9pm. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for non-students. Tickets will be on sale in Vari Hall today and Wednesday, from 10am to 5pm or at the door, where non-perishable food items will be welcomed to help sponsored students.

“We’re competing against pub night on campus,” says Baker del Aguila. “But we’re hoping people will come to our event for a change of pace and the opportunity to change a life.”

For students and others wanting to help with WUSC’s initiatives or for more information, contact WUSC at or visit the WUSC@York Web site or Facebook page.

Submitted by Edward Fenner, York International