Grebel student refugee experiences drive social innovation
Conrad Grebel University College students Mark Whyte, Mariak Achuoth, Jonathan Smith and Liban Farah accepted a challenge last fall: Build a social enterprise that restores the rights and dignities of refugees. The team participated in the Hult Prize Challenge, the world’s largest student competition for social good, competing for $1 million in start-up funding to launch a sustainable social venture.
Steeped in the University of Waterloo’s entrepreneurial atmosphere that spans technology to social innovation, this Grebel team was especially unique because it did not approach the problem from a westerner’s point of view. Farah and Achuoth are both students who came to Canada through the World University Service of Canada Student Refugee Program, and have their tuition and living expenses paid for by the University of Waterloo and Grebel students.
From their personal experiences, team members knew that there was little access to organized sports within Kenyan refugee camps. Their solution involved training referees in the camps, organizing tournaments to engage refugees, and giving them the ability to create their own sports equipment, to both play with and to sell for supplemental income.
The Hult Prize Challenge this year was particularly captivating to these students who are in different programs and years but were brought together by living in the Grebel residence.
Compelled by first-hand accounts of refugee life from his peers, Whyte wanted to take action. “Looking at problems faced by refugees, brainstorming solutions and sitting down with friends to really work hard at creating something useful to so many people, was incredibly satisfying,” he says. “I think that the Bible encourages us to be working hard to help others out. Hebrews 13:16 says, ‘Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’ This verse inspires me to use all the resources I have been given as a university student to try to help others as much as possible.”
Of the 50 teams participating at UWaterloo, this Grebel team placed in the Top 10. Team members were very appreciative of advice from the Kindred Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, as they learned how to create a social entrepreneurial enterprise.