2011-2012 Year In Review

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This was a MASSIVE year for WUSC Regina. Words cannot express the pride I have felt for my group this year. We were strangers who came together due to a common interest and I feel as though many of us have become good friends. We work together like a family, all with the desire to build a stronger group and help our sponsored students. This amazing group of people has made me laugh and cry. It may be long, but it is worth the read; here is our annual report:

Our 2011-2012 year started in May. We had just completed the Mock Refugee Camp and our membership jumped from three to over ten. We had elections in May for a new executive and had to create new positions because there was so much interest in the group. As well, we met bi-weekly over the summer.

Over the summer we went on a group retreat to our then co-chair Jessica Brown’s family farm. It was a weekend away that meant team building and getting our five SRP students out of the city for a change.  There were ten of us in total who went and we spent the weekend getting to know each other, swimming, making s’mores by the campfire, sleeping outside under the stars, horseback riding, and more. It was a trip that made us connect; we were no longer ten people with a common interest in refugee rights and education, but instead, we were a group who genuinely admired one another. More information about the trip can be found on our website here: http://wuscregina.ca/2011/08/06/trip-to-the-farm/#

Following the trip, we had to start preparing for our two new students. For most of us in the group this was a brand new experience – we got to be there from the beginning with Semere and Muse. Picking them up from the airport was exciting. There were over twenty people anxiously awaiting their arrival, and we were decked out with balloons and posters. And thanks to the wonders of the technology, some of us had already been in communication with our newcomers via facebook, which made meeting them even better.

Once school began, our meetings became a weekly occurrence, with great attendance from our members.  Our Students’ Union executives even joined in on meetings and events. We had a potluck event September 22nd to officially begin the school year, with nearly twenty members.

September 28th, Michelle Manks from the WUSC National office came to visit for a jampacked day of meetings and getting to know our members. After Michelle’s departure, our group underwent a huge restructuring. We were, for the first time in decades, placed in control of the finances for the SRP and asked to create a Constitution so that future local committee members of WUSC Regina would have strict guidelines to follow. With the new structure of the group, our committee has created a closer connection with our Students’ Union, helping us to garner more support from the campus community.

Shine a Light was our baby this year though. We decided this was the campaign we would nurture, support, and love. The first week of October we had a week of events to raise funds and awareness for the campaign. We had the help of many groups and individuals on campus, especially Professor Susan Weir who had her students volunteer with us for credit in class. On October 3rd, we had a bakesale and raised over $300. The food sold was made by volunteer students and professors. October 4th we had our flashlight mob at the local cinema. For three hours, from 7:00-10:00pm a large group of us sat outside, in the dark, using lanterns and flashlights to read and study. The goal of the evening was to raise awareness about the campaign and let people in the community know. It turned out to be an eye opening experience because people constantly stopped to ask what we were doing, and instead of quickly walking away, they stayed and asked questions. They wanted to know more about us and the campaign and $240 was donated that night in just three hours. We had about ten volunteers from Professor Weir’s class come join us, and because of the number of students participating, our numbers were overwhelming and amazing. It was impossible NOT to notice us. The next evening, October 5th, former Ethiopian refugee Ted Jaleta spoke on campus. He waived his speaking cost and donated all proceeds to Shine a Light, which ended up being just over 700$ in ticket sales. He spoke of his persecution, torture, and escape from Ethiopia and adjusting to life in Canada. Professors brought their students to the lecture as part of the class. There were about a hundred people in attendance in the audience. The last part of our week long events was from the Luther College Fowl Lunch. Every year, Luther College at the U of R has a Thanksgiving turkey-dinner lunch and this year they chose the Shine a Light campaign to be the recipient of the profit, making $333. In those four days we raised $1591.50 for the Shine a Light and reached out to many people in our community and campus.

October 18th 2011, we had another potluck and our co-chair Jessica resigned. It was a sombre meeting, but our group was nearly in full attendance to wish her well. At this point our membership was at 18. We had accumulated 8 more members in just a few short months.

In November our local committee sent four members to the WUSC AGA/Forum. They were myself (Aurora Elig), Matthew Lensen, Manie Wollel, and Semere Belay. We had secured funding and sponsorship from URSU (Students’ Union), RPIRG (Regina Public Interest Research Group), UofR ASA (Arts Students’ Association), and the Womens’ Centre. At the forum, WUSC Regina won the People’s Choice Award for Best Event for our Mock Refugee Camp we had done in April 2011. It was the most exhilarating moment for our group and words cannot properly explain how I felt.

On November 3rd, WUSC Regina co-sponsored a lecture with the International Studies Department, Justice Studies Department and the International Studies Club to bring Yannick Tona to the university to speak about surviving the Rwanda Genocide as part of his Ripples of Change tour. Many professors brought their students to the lecture, making well over a hundred people in attendance. More information about his tour can be found here: http://yannicktona.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/ripples-of-change-tour-kick-off-in-canada-starting-with-west-cost/

As part of the 16 Days of Activism in November, the Womens’ Centre on campus held a dinner at Crave Restaurant, raising money for Shine a Light. Their donation has not been disclosed at this point, but we were touched and honoured that they chose our organisation as the charity they would donate the proceeds to.

In November, members of our group were invited by Brett Estey to speak at the 75th Saskatchewan Youth Parliament in regards to immigration issues and what WUSC does.

On November 16th, two of our sponsored students became Canadian Citizens. More information on that event can be found at our website at: http://wuscregina.ca/2011/11/22/two-srp-students-become-a-canadian-citizen-manie-wollel-halima-siman/

In January, our regional coordinator Kalila, came to join us for a couple days. She joined us in a weekly meeting and a social event where we all went for Ethiopian food at Selam, then bowling and then the hooka lounge after. She met with the different organisations on campus that help administer the SRP, such as URSU and URGR, as well as getting to know the members of our committee…maybe getting to know us too well.

February was another busy month for us. For the first time, the U of R hosted International Development Week, in partnership with CIDA and the UofR International Office. WUSC Regina was invited to take part in multiple events that week. Our group was asked to have a booth set up to promote ourselves and raise awareness. As well, Matthew Lensen, Mohamed Hassan, Patience Umereweneza and I were all asked to take part in a panel discussion about empowering women and refugees. Another sponsored student, Jacob Panchol, was also asked to speak on another panel. Leading up to the week’s events, the University of Regina’s External Relations and Communications interviewed Mohamed and placed him on the front page of the university website. Again, we used volunteers from Professor Susan Weir’s class to help us table throughout the week and raise awareness.

Information about the week can be found here: http://www.uregina.ca/international/idw.html

Information about our panel can be found here: http://www.uregina.ca/international/events/2012/02/idw5.html

Information about Jacob Panchol’s panel discussion can be found here: http://www.uregina.ca/international/events/2012/02/idw7.html

Mohamed’s interview with the university can be found here: http://www.uregina.ca/external/communications/feature-stories/current/fs-02022012.html

Patience’s spot on the Global Regina news can be found here: http://www.globalregina.com/university+of+regina+hosts+international+development+week/6442575017/story.html

Taking part in this week’s events was significant for us for many reasons, but perhaps most importantly, we needed to get the word out about our group and what the SRP does because that very same week was our Students’ Union’s AGM. We had submitted a motion to increase our student levy from 2$ to 3$/student/semester. We needed the increase to offset the rising costs of living so that we could continue to sponsor two students every year. It is very difficult for our AGMs to reach quorum and thus pass any motions, so we needed our supporters out in droves, ready to pass our motion and keep the SRP going on campus. Our motion passed unanimously at the AGM, and our fairly large group of WUSC supporters was referred to as a “WUSC contingent” by the university newspaper after we erupted into applause. I feel this title of being a contingent is empowering for our group because literally, within a year, we grew from three members to over 20 strong members and well over a hundred supporters, ready to help us.

The following month, seven of our members ran for positions in the University of Regina Students’ Union. Not only had our committee become active and involved in WUSC, but we wanted to take it further and get involved in student government. Our honorary member Haanim Nur was elected as President, Jessica Bonish was elected as Differently-Abled Director, I was elected to the University Senate, and Patience Umereweneza was elected to the RPIRG Board of Directors.

In March we co-sponsored a gallery previewing of the Regina Immigrant Women Centre. We had one room at the centre dedicated to Shine a Light and the SRP. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of immigrant women’s issues in Canada. It was open to the public and well over one hundred community members attended the event and it created new networking opportunities in the community.

On April 1st we had one final fundraiser, a bakesale, to raise money for the committee this time. We raised $225.70, selling baked goods and fair-trade coffee at the UofR’s symphony-orchestra performance.

This was a big year for WUSC Regina. We increased our levy by over twenty thousand dollars a year, got actively involved in the community, raised $1500 for Shine a Light, helped the Womens’ Centre raise money for the same campaign, restructured our group, wrote a Constitution, and decided that we would spend our surplus that had accumulated over the years on sponsoring FOUR students this upcoming year instead of two. The bar has been set high for 2012-2013, but we are ready to exceed all expectations.

 A HUGE THANK YOU has to go out to the 2011-2012 University of Regina Students’ Union for their unwavering support, Mike Staines for taking on the financial responsibilities, Yaya Siggins for all the help she offered this year, University of Regina Group for Refugees for their continued support, Professor Susan Weir for all the volunteers she got us, University of Regina Board of Governors for their continued tuition donation, Luther College, Regina Public Interest Research Group, Brandon University’s WUSC Local Committee for all the promoting they did of our group, University of Regina Women’s Centre, SCIC, Gail Leibel of Campion College for helping organise all our volunteers, Southland Mall Cinema for not kicking us off their property during our flashlight mob, Jessica Brown’s parents for all their amazing support, all of those with WUSC National – Michelle, Asni, Joanna, Kalila, etc and SOOO many more. This year could not have ever been as successful without any of these people and organisations.

Most importantly though, I would like to thank my amazing local committee. You guys have given me hope, inspired me and made me so proud to have been your co-chair this year. So thank you to: Jessicas Brown, Bonish, Mitten-Moore, Talitha, Merrissa, Jana, Shea, Kya, Sofia, Matthews Lensen and Simpson, Rodger, Ryleigh, Haanim, Megan, Patience, Manie, Jacob, Mohamed, Semere, Muse, Duncan, Andrea, Arezo, Chelsea.

Written by: Aurora Elig

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