Rozy Karim

Rozy Karim. Photo by Greg Ehlers.

For Rozy Karim, finishing her degree through SFU NOW: Nights or Weekends is the continuation of a dream she set down over 30 years ago.

Karim’s life has been extraordinary. In the 1970s, she and her family experienced horrific violence and political unrest in Rwanda. Her husband was jailed, their home was looted, and her brother-in-law was killed in his prison cell. But Karim had a spirit that was not easily broken. She’d learned the value of hope, education and hard work from her mother, who had sold potatoes to send her daughters to school. So Karim and her husband fled across the mountains to the Canadian embassy in Rwanda, where their refugee visas were processed and they made their way to Canada.

In Toronto in 1974, Karim saw snow for the first time. As the snow fell softly, she spun around in the street with her hands spread wide, celebrating. “I knew that I was blessed to be in this wonderful land of opportunity, of peace, of prosperity and of hard work,” she says. “I knew I could dream about anything.”

And dream she did.  A few years after arriving in Canada, Karim began a degree as she’d always hoped to, but had to pause when her third son was born. She devoted herself instead to raising her three boys, later becoming a single parent.

In the last three decades, Karim has worked hard, watched her boys grow into men she is proud of, and opened a successful business. She has also given back to the country and the community that mean so much to her: She calls Canada, who took her in and “hugged” her, she says, her “big mom.” Karim interprets for women who have recently immigrated to Canada, volunteers with her mosque, and raises funds for cancer research.

Still, she wants to do more: She dreams of representing Canada with a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people in underdeveloped countries in Africa—people she understands well.

“I want to share my strength with others,” she says. “I’m a survivor, and I want to help others survive.”

First, however, the organization requires Karim to finish her university degree.

And so, at the age of 58, she says, she had an epiphany: She’d raised her children. It was finally time to return to her dream of finishing her bachelor's degree.

For Karim, the challenge will surely not be the greatest she has faced. “Why not?” she says. “I‘ve always wanted to go back to school. Now is my time.”

She chose SFU NOW: Nights or Weekends because it allows her to take part-time courses in the evenings and on weekends. She was nervous on her first day, but her sons cheered her on.

“They remind me that it is their turn now to put me through school, and are grateful that I was able to raise them as fine, independent business people,” Karim says. “Their love, kindness, encouragement and generosity are my strength.”

Karim loves what she is learning, and plans to major in international studies and minor in women's studies or communication.

“I’ve met other students who are mature and heard stories that anything is possible,” she says. “It’s never too late.”

By Amy Robertson

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