Background

The UBC committee of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) provides UBC students with the opportunity to participate in one of Canada’s and the world’s longest established international, student-based organizations dedicated to assisting the needs of students and young people in developing countries. The origins of the World University Service (WUS) stretch back to the years immediately following the First World War, when an organization known as the World’s Student Christian Federation launched European Student Relief, a studentled movement for assisting students whose lives and studies had been disrupted by conflict. Renamed International Student Service (ISS) in 1925, ISS remained active throughout the 1930s from its headquarters in Geneva, organizing conferences, seminars and study tours, and providing assistance to Jewish students and other refugees who were fleeing persecution in Nåzi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The first Canadian committee of ISS was formed in 1939 by a group of students and professors at the University of Toronto. A UBC committee of ISS was established in 1948.

In 1950 ISS was renamed World University Service (WUS) in recognition of the growing involvement of students and faculty around the globe and the reality that the focus of refugee assistance had begun to shift from Europe to other parts of the world. WUS shed its former Christian affiliation and became a secular organization, but retained its humanitarian commitment and much of the earlier focus on student relief and refugee assistance. WUS chapters were subsequently established in many countries around the world, including the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) in 1957. At the same time, local WUSC committees comprised of students, staff and faculty began to spring up on university and college campuses across Canada. Today, there are more than 80 local WUSC committees at universities and colleges across the country. They are represented at the national level by the World University of Canada (W USC), a non-profit, non-governmental organization headquartered in Ottawa.

WUSC-UBC

WUSC-UBC is one of the oldest and most enduring student clubsat UBC, promoting engaged and informed global citizenship for more than sixty years. In 1947 a returned airforce veteran and student established the UBC branch of ISS with the support of the university administration and an Alma Mater Society annual levy of $ 1.00 per student. The student contribution was earmarked for international student relief efforts and to provide financial support to UBC students who were selected to participate in the organization’s newly established International Seminar. There has been a W USC committee at UBC every year since 1947.

In recent years, the WUSC-UBC committee has averaged 10-15 core members. They comprise the committee’s executive, and are responsible for planning and implementing the committee’s activities during the course of the academic year. In addition, there is also a much larger list of members-at-large, who participate in WUSC-UBC activities on an occasional basis. The committee’s main responsibilities throughout the year are to administer the Student Refugee Program and recruit UBC students for the annual International Seminar. In addition, the committee typically engages in a range of additional activities such as hosting an annual WUSCsponsored regional symposium on development issues, organizing visiting speakers and film series, and joining forces with other student clubs on campus for the purpose of fund-raising and consciousness-raising campaigns on issues such as refugee rights, fair trade, and HIV/AIDS. The committee is assisted in its efforts by a Faculty Advisor who provides advice and support to the committee, serves as a source of continuity and collective memory, and liaises with various units within the university on behalf of the committee. Dr. Glen Peterson (History) has been the WUSC-UBC Faculty Advisor since 1994.

WUSC-UBC is widely regarded as one of the most successful WUSC committees in the country. In 2003 the committee received the first W USC Local Committee Award in recognition of its achievements in the areas of refugee sponsorship and student engagement. In 2010 the committee was nominated a second time for this award. In 2003-04 W USC-UBC also received the Helen McCrae Award, which is given annually by UBC’s Vice-President, Students in recognition of “exceptional contributions or significant improvements to the student experience and learning environment at UBC” In 2008 Dr. Glen Peterson received the President’s Service Award for Excellence for his efforts in support of the local W USC committee and the Student Refugee Program.

It is also noteworthy that UBC’s hugely successful annual student-led event, Africa Awareness, was the brainchild of W USC-UBC student refugee Veronica Fynn, who single-handedly spearheaded the first Africa Awareness conference at UBC in 2002 and remained the driving force behind the event for several years afterward. In 201 1 Veronica Fynn, who went on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Health, an LLM, and is now working towards her PhD, received the UBC Alumni Association’s Global Citizenship Award, which cited her remarkable journey from student refugee to “one of Canada’s leading advocates for the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.”