‘Inspiring’ refugee gets scholarship to study community engagement

Badri has a PhD in geography, a masters in environmental studies, and a bachelor of engineering. She has 25 years of academic and professional work in environmental studies and renewable energy.

In 2013-14, Badri won a fellowship at University of California, Davis, which included working in Washington, D.C. on a U.S. aid project on energy in Africa.

But on returning to Sudan, she was interrogated, ordered to stay in the country, and to check in with officials every two months.

“That was terrifying for my family,” she says. It was “not like a gun pointed at your head,” but the family felt “the situation could escalate out of control.”

Badri still had a valid visa into Canada — from when she attended a conference here while on the fellowship. But it would still be tricky and dangerous to get out of Sudan.

The “goodwill” her university had among the people, however, provided a safe passage in 2014 to Canada, where she was granted refugee status.

In Hamilton, she immersed herself in the community, becoming a Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre board member in 2015, a city advisory committee member on refugees and immigrants in 2016, and in 2017 a community adviser in a McMaster University research project on technology-based ESL programs.

She is now enrolled in the Leadership in Community Engagement course at McMaster’s downtown centre for continuing education, thanks to a $5,000 Western Union scholarship.

Michael Barker-Fyfe, a manager with Western Union, which transfers money internationally for foreign students among other things, found Badri’s story of helping other newcomers inspiring.

“We’re really honoured to help Suad complete her education,” he said.

“It’s hard enough to be forced to leave your country and go to a foreign place, but I know she’s focused on getting back to teaching.”

Mac’s director of continuing education, Lorraine Carter, chose Badri for the Western Union scholarship because she was “a fantastic choice.”

“It was pretty clear to me she was someone who was going to jump in and make it (the course) a successful experience for herself.”

It will also expand her professional network and perhaps help her find work, Carter added.

Back at Ahfad University, Badri’s job was twofold: academically, to teach; and socially, to aid community development.

The university’s mission was to educate and empower rural Sudanese women. So Badri did a lot of outreach, including fundraising to cover tuition for young women learning skills, such as good agricultural practices to take back to their villages.

“You can’t imagine how wonderful it is to see these young women learn,” she says, adding “They just blossomed”.

Miles away, now, Badri is doing community outreach again, this time for immigrants.

“There, I advocated for rural women. Now, I advocate for the marginalized and newcomers with barriers of language, housing and employment,” she says.

Her ultimate dream is to teach again and do research at the university level.

But for now, she’s just happy to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada.

cfragomeni@thespec.com

905-526-3392 | @CarmatTheSpec

cfragomeni@thespec.com

905-526-3392 | @CarmatTheSpec

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