Leonard HonoreLeonard Honore spent 20 of his 22 years in a Malawi refugee camp, but today he is working towards an undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo and living at St. Paul’s. He is being sponsored through the University of Waterloo’s and World University Services of Canada’s (WUSC) Student Refugee Program.

Leonard was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but his family left when he was 2 years old because of ethnic clashes. “The camp is the only life I know,” he says. “But I could tell from my parents that it was not a good life.”

The competition to get sponsorship for the Student Refugee Program was stiff. Leonard says that 70 applicants were vying for 20 positions across Canada, and he was not successful in his first two attempts at securing a spot. However, his volunteer work at the camp’s high school and adult education centre – along with his grades – helped him achieve his goal.

Leonard says one challenging thing about life in Canada is adjusting to the concept of time. “Life in Canada is very busy,” says Leonard, who is taking four courses in his first term. “In the camp, there was not much to do. You could sleep in till noon, then wake up and still not be sure what to do during the day. It’s very different here.”

He adds: “People are short with time. When they say to meet at a certain time, they mean it.”

Transportation has been a delight, however. “The transportation system here is awesome,” says Leonard. “It’s on time and convenient – it’s lovely!”

Leonard has called his family, who are still in the camp, a few times, but he says it makes him feel sad. “I miss them even more when I talk to them.” He says they also have high expectations of him – expectations that he can’t quite yet fulfill – “so I just feel bad.”

In the meantime, he is completing two terms in the Bridge to Academic success program at Renison College and will then proceed to full-time study in Arts. He is also broadening his social network and is considering the options for his major.

Leonard is one of two students chosen this year for UWaterloo’s Student Refugee Program; the other, Liban Farah, is staying at Conrad Grebel.

St. Paul’s was the first partner to offer housing when WUSC was forming on campus, and our students contribute a voluntary levy to help fund the program. The College originally made an initial six-year commitment to the program, which it has since renewed indefinitely.

St. Paul’s provides the resources to manage the program through a staff member, Gráinne Ryder, and provides free partial meal plans to all refugee students involved in the program.


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