At this moment, one in every 113 people on earth is now displaced due to persecution, violence or human rights violations. And more than half of these refugees are children.
The majority of these refugees who come to Canada have experienced war-related post-traumatic stress injuries. Newly arrived students deal with culture shock, language barriers, divided families, and a lack of formal schooling.
Isolation and discrimination can place refugee students’ self-esteem, social competence, and academic achievements at risk, hindering their integration into Canadian society. Refugees coming to Canada need to know they are seen — and more importantly — they will be helped.
To this end, the Edith Lando Charitable Foundation has generously gifted $1,000,000 towards the UBC Faculty of Education’s first-ever Professorship in Counselling for Refugee and Immigrant Youth and Families. It’s a crucial first step toward a complex problem.
“Anyone involved in refugee and immigrant education knows the complexity of helping the newcomer student thrive,” says Mambo Tabu Masinda, a settlement worker in the Burnaby School District. “University professors, teachers and prospective teachers must be well prepared to meet the needs of newcomers by understanding the intertwined family, school, community, national and global dimensions affecting these students every day.”
Before Edith Lando passed away, she received the Order of Canada for her dedication to refugee children and families. Her daughter Roberta Lando Besier, a director of the charitable foundation, would heartily agree with the importance of understanding the needs of newcomers — because it’s part of their family history.
“Our grandparents were all immigrants themselves. They left Eastern Europe in Russia escaping discrimination and economic hardships, hoping to build a new life for themselves,” says Roberta. “They also had to face opposition from those who would have blocked their entry for reasons that are not that different from those who are hostile and suspicious of immigration in Canada today.”
With better research, informed policy-making, and thoughtfully trained educators, we can give refugee students the best chance to thrive and succeed in their new home. The new Professorship in Counselling for Immigrant and Refugee Youth and Families in the Faculty of Education sends a real message of hope to refugees: we see you, and we want to help.