Wednesday, November 28, 2012
By David Fraser
Photos of Muhamed Hassan in his mock refugee camp set up at the University of Regina in Regina Saskatchewan November 26, 2012. Photograph by: Bryan Schlosser , Regina Leader-Post
Refugee life isn't easy, and this week members of Regina's World University Service of Canada (WUSC) are trying to show university students that through a mock refugee camp set up on campus.
WUSC sponsors refugees who excel in school but have little chance of escaping a camp. Kay Niedermayer is a WUSC member who planned this year's event.
"There's no ability to leave the camp without the sponsorship of WUSC. It's kind of their only way out of the camp to get a greater education to have more opportunities in life," she said from inside one of the tents set up. Each tent has pictures and descriptions of refugee camps from around the world, with blankets and other props for added effect.
Mohamed Hassan is a So-malian who spent the first 19 years of his life in a Kenyan refugee camp. Now, the 24-year-old is studying at the University of Regina on a WUSC scholarship.
"Growing up in a refugee camp was one of the hardest things to do in life. Basically, it's a life where you don't have almost all that you need. You grow up and live every day, and if you get breakfast you don't know if you'll get lunch or dinner," said Hassan, who is in his third year of accounting studies.
In 1991, civil war erupted in Somalia. Hassan and his family fled and ended up in Dadaab, a refugee camp that holds an estimated 500,000 people in an area less than 13,000 acres.
"My parents, and my family, everyone was running away for safety just to survive," said Hassan, who was an infant when he arrived at Dadaab.
Over the years, the refugee camp faced many problems. Flooding in 2006 caused thousands of people in the camp to relocate and a 2011 drought led to an influx of refugees entering Dada-ab. The camp is chronically plagued by overcrowding, and is often considered to be the largest refugee camp in the world.
Hassan's family is still there, and while he misses them, it is his hope to one day bring them to Regina.
"It was a choice to make. Once you get great things in life, you have to give up some stuff," he said of leaving his family and friends.
He plans to stay and work in Saskatchewan after he graduates, and hopes WUSC's mock refugee camp will turn the heads of students walking by.
"It's a great way to inform the university community and students about the plight of refugees and that what we are doing as WUSC is helping the refugees pursue their dreams in life," he said.
In the meantime, Hassan is grateful for WUSC.
"Going to school needs a lot of motivation, you have to push yourself so hard. Once you're down there, and you get one of these opportunities, you know it was a very hard, difficult thing to do. To be here today, it means a lot because you know you'll be out of that situation and you're not going to be in there again," said Hassan.