Aamir Aman’s journey is not typical. Before graduating from Cegep, he spent his high school years in a religious monastery, where he came to enjoy the small and intimate atmosphere. So when it came time to choose a university, he wanted a place where he felt he could belong.
“I googled ‘English universities in Quebec’ and found Bishop’s. I thought, ‘I’m definitely going here!’,” says Aamir.
The Columbo, Sri Lanka native has since found a way to not only integrate in the small Bishop’s community with ease, but also nurture it with his time and generosity.
One of the projects closest to his heart is the Refugee Student Sponsorship Project, which Bishop’s runs in partnership with Champlain College. The project started in 1992 when a group of faculty, staff and students heard of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a private refugee sponsorship program. Very quickly, the group took action, and just a few months later it welcomed its first student fleeing the conflict raging in Rwanda at the time. Since then the campus has welcomed more than 35 refugee students from countries including Ethiopia, Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burundi, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, to name a few.
Aamir sits on the committee that works to bring a student to campus each year. The arrival of a student is a transformative experience for everyone involved, not least of which are the students like Aamir who help the sponsored student integrate into the community and learn the inner workings of Canadian society.
Aamir has been moved by the incredible strength and resilience of the students he has helped.
“It’s a very special experience for me to see these sponsored students settle in their new home,” explains the Sociology honours student. “We help the student with many of the tasks that we all take for granted, like grocery shopping and working on the computer. It’s made us realize just how fortunate we are to live in Canada, how we have peace and abundance. It’s very humbling.”
Through his experiences with the sponsored students, Aamir has gained an appreciation for the plight of people who are forced to leave their homes due to conflict.
“I’ve grown so much personally because of the experiences I’ve had with the refugee sponsorship committee. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn not only about your new friend and their background, but also about yourself.”