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Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge mobilizes community’s desire for action

February 9, 2016

by Wendy Cukier

Vice-President Research and Innovation Ryerson University, executive lead of Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge and founder of the Diversity Institute

As Canada’s first Ashoka Changemaker campus and a RECODE member, Ryerson and its faculty, staff and students are continually building a culture of innovation. So it’s no surprise that Ryerson sprang into action with an innovative response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

I was part of the newly formed citizens’ group Lifeline Syria, chaired by my colleague Ratna Omidvar, which launched June 17, 2015 with the objective of privately sponsoring 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Just one month later, we responded to a call to action by Ryerson’s president, Sheldon Levy, and formed the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge (RULSC) with the goal of mobilizing the Ryerson community to privately sponsor 10 Syrian refugee families or 40 Syrian refugees. The response was tremendous, with more than 300 students volunteering to help support resettlement. In September, we more than doubled our goal to 25 Syrian families or 100 Syrian refugees. As momentum grew, presidents of the other GTA universities, including OCAD University, the University of Toronto and York University decided to join us. Our new goal expanded to privately sponsoring 75 Syrian refugee families, or 300 people. This project has taken us from spectators of the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War and made us into changemakers.

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