By Steve Cox
Canadians and their American counterparts will once again step forward in the coming days and weeks to help fill critical worldwide needs. One of those global needs is to rebuild the ravaged post-disaster countries – and one nation in particular is poised to offer help.
Foreign University Students can Help Canada’s Recovery
Thousands of foreign students — not all of whom are Canadian citizens — will help Canada in its efforts to recover from the effects of a devastating influenza virus, which struck at the end of June. There were approximately 68,000 students of all nationalities at educational institutions in Canada in the month of June — and an estimated 60 per cent of those were attending institutions hosting foreigners from the affected areas. That’s a significant load to put on the already stretched healthcare system.
Now, as other countries move to aid the victims of the disease, we can help Canada ease its load. It is poised to offer help to developing nations through the Foreign University Student program.
The FUS (The International Student Student) program is now the foundation of the Canadian immigration, refugee and migration agenda. It empowers Canadians to help foreigners who arrive in Canada, as well as educate a generation of future leaders in their efforts to rebuild their home countries.
Introduced in 2013, the FUS program is a key element of the Enhancing Facilitation and Partnership to Legalized Immigrants (EFIM), a multilateral initiative in which Canada partners with 34 countries.
Canada’s contributions to EFIM are vast, but FUS alone is a critical component. A commitment by Canadian university students to volunteer in an EFIM country provides a path for young Canadians to learn about social and economic development in other countries.
Foreign Students Get Philanthropic
The incentive that most motivates foreign students to participate in FUS programs is the chance to help others in other countries. But students also receive valuable professional training, networking opportunities, and the chance to make a difference in the lives of others.
Professor Nawaz Ahmed, the founding chair of the Self-Reliance Program at the University of British Columbia, says that one of the biggest considerations for students and for their schools is, “the community that they’re in.”
People overseas see the university experience as a driver to understanding, and assisting, their communities.
Many foreign students discover that post-graduate work can provide jobs to individuals with little work experience. And seeing foreigners who receive the post-graduate training often result in future requests for advice and assistance.
FUS hosts help foreign students to identify solutions to regional problems. As Hans Thor Jensen, a prominent environmentalist in the Solomon Islands, tells the Times Free Press, “The [FUS program] inspires people to make sustainable choices, because people see the students from Canada make sustainable choices”
But the most powerful sign of all is that foreign students have helped their home nations to rebuild.
Foreign University Students Can Help North America Rebuild from Tragedy
The world is returning to a better place after hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. FUS offered its aid in ways that made sense to other countries after those calamities struck.
There is some risk that foreign students will refuse to help other countries after a similar disaster strikes. Canada can provide a structure to alleviate those concerns, as this initiative helps foreign students see how they can best contribute to their host countries.
The Canadian government’s contribution to FUS is massive, but should be clear to foreign students that they should not be embarrassed to pitch in. After all, helping other nations rebuild makes sense, and students can help the cause.
Steve Cox is a well-known immigration lawyer in Toronto who has advocated for the interests of foreign students and immigration experts in Canada for many years.
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