Helping bridge cultural gaps

April 29, 2004, Vol. 30, no. 1
By Julie Ovenell-Carter



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Jack Su has a deep empathy for the refugee students sponsored by SFU's World University Service of Canada (WUSC) committee. It was only 12 years ago, at age nine, that the fourth year kinesiology student immigrated to Canada with his family from Malaysia.

“I ran into some racism, especially in the early years,” he says, and those experiences made him particularly receptive to WUSC's message of cross-cultural understanding when he first arrived at SFU in 2000.

“I attended a WUSC presentation in first year, and the idea of sponsoring student refugees on campus appealed to me. I liked the idea of interacting with students from a background that was different than my own, and helping them adjust to a new culture. And I have enjoyed educating the people here to be aware of how we are all linked, and to become more understanding and tolerant of cultural differences.”

Over the last four years, Su has been an active member of the local WUSC committee, serving as executive director and helping the local committee to secure stable funding.

(In 2001, SFU students voted in favor of increasing fees by 50 cents per fulltime student, per semester, to support student refugees such as Wani Gabriel, who arrived on campus last fall from Sudan, via a refugee camp in Kenya.)

For his commitment to international development and his strong academic record, Su has now been named one of the 20 young Canadians who will participate in the 57th WUSC summer seminar to be held in Malawi for six weeks in June and July.

Su will attend an orientation session in Ottawa in June before he leaves for Malawi. During his stay in southeast Africa, Su will be hosted by a local family, and will carry out research examining issues related to agriculture, or to the spread of HIV/AIDS. As well, he will visit development projects and attend academic conferences.

Su hopes the experience will serve his future aspirations. “I have always liked helping people health-wise and I think I would like to one day apply my skills with an aid organization such as Doctors Without Borders.”

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