Taking Responsibility: Student Organizers Lead on Humanitarian Aid
The conference operated on the premise that students are the new generation of leaders who are ready to work actively for humanitarian change. Many speakers and participants agreed that a core mission of educational institutions should be to raise and support students in this work. In particular, attendees focused on how higher education institutions can equip students to initiate and actively lead sustainable initiatives for social change.
Reflecting the sense of urgency surrounding current global humanitarian crises, Rema Jamous of UNCHR said that today there are more than 100 million displaced people all over the world. Although refugee camps were originally developed as an emergency temporary response, the average time someone spends in a camp is now 17-20 years.
In one panel discussion, Darren Thomas, faculty from Wilfrid Laurier University, pointed out that “the time for good words has passed, and there is a vital necessity for institutions to take responsibility and provide evidence for their declared values.”
Yevhen Yashchuk, a student at CEU, said he was happy to find students and other individuals at the conference who were pressuring their institutions to commit to humanitarian action. “I saw students constantly challenging their universities to move further in response to the ongoing global crises and NGO leaders continuing their work in the least favorite circumstances,” he said.
The need for stable structures to support sustainable humanitarian aid was another recurring theme throughout the conference. Gavin Brockett, a Wilfried Laurier faculty member, said ISOW provides a model that might be inspiring for students who want to design their own means for providing humanitarian support within the higher education infrastructure. A student-led and student-funded initiative, it provides scholarships to students from countries experiencing war and conflict so they can study in safety in Canada while simultaneously allowing other students to study the human realities of international conflict.
“I liked how different delegates stressed student-led research in humanitarian action because it may become the first step for many undergraduates on their research, activist, or career paths,” added Yashchuck.
Delegates participated in plenary sessions led by renowned speakers and researchers, active-learning style workshops, and multiple discussion and reflection sessions. By listening to each other’s stories and providing feedback, participants were able to establish a network of like-minded associates who are moved by the same values and goals in their humanitarian aid work. As a next step, the participants expect that the built relationships and shared conversations will evolve into enduring partnerships and joint initiatives across the globe.
Soheila Noori, also a student at CEU, said the conference inspired her to undertake civic engagement work that uses her university’s resources to assist students coming from countries experiencing war. Last year she inquired about developing a program that awards scholarships to girls from Afghanistan. Although those efforts are currently on hold, “the conference gave me more courage and understanding on how to get involved in humanitarian actions so I can do my best to propose some specific plans which can be implemented.”
Post Date: 04-27-2023