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Why Give | Impact stories

To help, as I was helped: From Syria to Vancouver

“I came from Jordan as a refugee with nothing in my pocket.” Azuz Al-Rubaye was one of millions of young people displaced in the Syrian refugee crisis.

When many things go wrong, a lot of things have to go right to overcome those barriers. For Azuz Al-Rubaye, who at a young age was caught up in the Syrian refugee crisis, those hurdles were substantial.

“I received the Patrick and Beryl Campbell Centennial Leader Scholarship—and without it, I wouldn’t have been able to enroll in my Bachelor of Arts program. It’s because of my financial situation, my parents are unable to support me, I don’t have any sort of income or savings. I came from Jordan as a refugee with nothing in my pocket.”

His family was forced to flee Iraq due to war and settle in Syria, where they stayed for five years. In 2011 when the Syrian civil war broke out, Azuz’s family had to flee to Jordan where they would stay for an additional six years. In Jordan, educational opportunities for Azuz and his family were contingent on the ability to pay tuition, which was beyond his family’s means.

Opportunity came through two non-profit agencies working toward providing education for refugees. These agencies helped facilitate Azuz’s eventual scholarship to a United World College, specifically Pearson College in Victoria, British Columbia.

“After I finished Pearson, I was encouraged to go to university,” says Azuz, “and I had friends at UBC from Pearson here already, so I applied to UBC and I got in. I had made applications to other universities — but UBC was the only one to grant me a scholarship with a full ride.”

Azuz has words of gratitude for the Patrick and Beryl Campbell Charitable Trust and other UBC donors,

“I would want to say thank you—I think they are making a big change in people’s lives, because they’re enabling youth to help others. By providing this scholarship, they’re not just helping one person, but they’re helping society,” adding, “Without their donation, I wouldn’t have been able to continue my education.”

It almost seemed a foregone conclusion that when Azuz chose a major, the most natural fit was International Relations in the Faculty of Arts. “It was the closest program that would enable me to do what I want to do in life, which is working at developing educational programs for refugees,” says Azuz. “My plan after I graduate, is to establish a life here—but still work toward providing educational programs for refugees and to go on to do international work as well.”

Azuz Al-Rubaye is new to Vancouver, just arriving at UBC in September. He volunteers with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) local committee in Vancouver, helping out with their campaigns. Still Azuz misses Victoria a bit, saying “I go back there every second weekend to see friends. My whole support system is there.”

When he’s not studying, Azuz keeps busy — getting together with friends, going to the gym, and exploring Vancouver on bicycle. He knows he’s made the right choice, adding “It’s very important for me to get this education, as it will allow me to do what I want to do—which is to help, as I was helped.”