Reaching out to help refugees

Ballenas graduate heads to Malawi with an undergraduate degree and enthusiasm

Former local resident Amanda Bergmann is heading to Malawi Jan. 4 to work for the Student Refugee Program

Former local resident Amanda Bergmann is heading to Malawi Jan. 4 to work for the Student Refugee Program

LISSA ALEXANDER

reporter@pqbnews.com

Former Nanoose Bay resident Amanda Bergmann has been working hard in an East Coast university toward a position with an organization dedicated to finding solutions and opportunities for the world’s most marginalized people—and she’s been successful.

After a lengthy interview process, Bergmann was chosen by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) for an internship with Students without Borders, where she’ll be working for the Student Refugee Program to bring students from refugee camps in Malawi to Canadian universities so they may continue their education.

“It’s a really big deal, I’m really excited about it,” said the 22-year-old Ballenas graduate when she was home visiting family for the holidays. “And I was very surprised by it, happily surprised, this is what I have been working towards.”

Bergmann recently graduated from Mount Alison University in New Brunswick with a B.A. (with honours) in international relations and a double minor in political science and history.

She said throughout her academic career she has been focusing on at-risk populations and she’s very interested in aspects of human security and migration, including conflict resolution and reconciliation, international relief efforts, and international human rights. She plans on going into immigration law next year.

Before she leaves on her four-month trip on Jan. 4, Bergmann hopes to raise awareness of the Student Refugee Program and the benefits it brings to both the students who come to Canada as well as for the Canadian communities where the refuges settle.

“It’s not just a one way street, we’re not just helping them but they’re coming and they’re teaching us about their culture, they’re teaching us about what’s important to them, their different perspectives and how they would approach issues.”

Bergmann said there are huge refugee problems around the world and the issue will continue getting bigger with increased civil wars and environmental changes.

There is a very healthy WUSC chapter at Vancouver Island University, Bergmann said, where two students from Africa successfully relocated to Nanaimo this year.

In Malawi, Bergmann will primarily be teaching Canadian integration classes, educating on what it’s like to live in Canada, including how to do simple things like make appointments with professionals and shop for groceries.

She said many of the students she’ll be working with have grown up in refuge camps and this is a way to mitigate any culture shock they may experience. She will also work as an academic tutor for those working on online diplomas, help applicants fill out forms to apply for the program, and help those who are successful apply for permanent residency status in Canada.

Bergmann has never been to Africa, but has traveled to places like Mexico and Western Europe. As Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, many places don’t have indoor pluming or electricity, and Bergmann has some transportation and safety concerns, she said, but she’s up for the challenge.

“I think what I’m predominantly worried about is assimilating to the culture and being able to work with the different work ethics that are there,” she said.

Bergmann’s position is volunteer and therefore she is trying to raise money to help fund her journey to Malawi. Contact her at abergmann@mta.ca or follow her personal blog during her trip at http://blog.studentswithoutborders.ca/amanda-bergmann/.

To find out more about WUSC, and to donate to the organization visit www.wusc.ca/srp.

 

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