On October 25, 2011, the FCJ Refugee Centre recognized Judy Broadbent, vice chair of Maytree, for her dedication to the journey of uprooted people. As Francisco Rico-Martinez, Co-Director of the FCJ Refugee Centre, pointed out, Judy’s passion for the wellbeing of young people finds expression through the Maytree Scholarship Program, which provides scholarship opportunities to students who came to Canada as refugees. Unlike other, more traditional scholarships, the support of the Maytree program goes beyond financial resources. Judy has built a program that provides a community of support, recognizing the emotional and social needs of students who are often alone in Canada.
In her acceptance speech, Judy said that “I see this award as a celebration of all the wonderful and talented young refugees whom I have had the privilege of knowing and befriending. Our students come to this country with hopes and dreams and a determination to succeed and contribute. Each one carries a burden from the past, but they are young and resilient and determined to move forward. I feel very fortunate to have built many strong and close relationships over the 13 years that our program has been in existence.”
Maytree started the scholarship program for protected persons (formally known as Convention refugees) in 1999. At that time, protected persons were unable to access student loans. So for many, post-secondary education was simply not an option. We knew that it was important not only to provide scholarships to refugee students but aim for legislative change as well. After many ups and downs the legislative change to allow protected persons to access student loans was finally included in the 2003 federal Budget, to a standing ovation in the House of Commons. And in 2004 most provincial governments had made the changes in their student loan programs to mirror the federal changes.
Maytree has funded over 200 students since the beginning of the program. Although one of our main goals has been accomplished, there is still much to do. In these times of diminishing compassion and hardening attitudes towards refugees worldwide and in Canada, we believe that our scholarship program makes an excellent case for Canada’s continued and improved openness to refugees.