The lifeless image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on the Turkish shores changed how the public views refugees. It brought displaced people into the forefront of discussion, and prompted the global community to action. Evidence of this is in the goals of those trying to lend a humanitarian hand.
The Ryerson Lifeline Syria Challenge started on July 20 with the intention of bringing 44 refugees to Canada.
Support in the Ryerson University community surged after photos of Alan surfaced, who drowned trying to flee Syria with his family, and the goal was raised to 100 people.
Samantha Jackson, a graduate of the Immigration Studies master’s program and student volunteer co-ordinator, believes something had to be done.
“What is happening is too dire to do nothing,” Jackson said.
“When I heard that Ryerson Lifeline was being created, I knew that students and young people are not apathetic. There are people who are connected to the issues and I knew this would be an opportunity to unlock the energy on campus of students looking to do something meaningful.”
The project, an offshoot of the GTA-wide Lifeline Syria, has attracted students and faculty from all walks of life. More than 200 students and 50 faculty members have come forward to help those without a home come to Canada.
“The student response has been absolutely incredible,” said Jackson. “We have people emailing us to say, ‘I’m Syrian, I want to give back to my community. How do I get involved?’ But we also have students who are coming to us and saying, ‘I don’t know much beyond the headlines, but I want to do something.’ It’s across the campus.”
The diverse skills of the Ryerson community is needed. The work does not end when the refugees arrive in Canada. Five committees are preparing for their arrival and integration into Canadian life during the following months. They include general welcoming, political engagement, translation, health and finance.
Jackson sees the challenge as a continuation of Ryerson’s legacy of good work and community engagement.
“Ryerson at its core is a school that values experiential learning,” she said. “Student engagement and practical experience is at the heart of so many programs. It is a school that also actively values social innovation through out so many of their programs and has cross cutting themes of making change in the world.”
The Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge has raised over $270,000 to date.