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Three Refugee Olympic athletes bound for Canada to pursue their postsecondary education after Tokyo Games

Jul 24, 2021

Headshots of Rose Nathike Likonyen, James Nyang Chiengjiek and Paulo Amotun LokoroThree athletes from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Olympic Team, Rose Nathike Likonyen, Paulo Amotun Lokoro and James Nyang Chiengjiek have been offered admission to Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario for the 2021-2022 academic year through a new complementary pathway of WUSC’s long-standing Student Refugee Program. These athletes will be sponsored to resettle to Canada where they can continue their studies and their athletic pursuits after the Tokyo Games. This new initiative is a collaboration between WUSC, Sheridan College and UNHCR. 

This year, 29 refugee athletes are set to compete in Tokyo’s Olympic Games commencing on July 23. Among them are  Rose Nathike, Paulo Amotun, and James Nyang. Originally from South Sudan, they have been living and training for the Games from the Kakuma refugee camp and a training centre in Ngong, Kenya. After the Tokyo Games, these three athletes will make history as the first cohort of students to come to Canada through a new ‘athletic pathway’ in WUSC’s Student Refugee Program, the only program of its kind to combine opportunities for resettlement with higher education. The three refugee athletes will continue to receive their scholarships from the IOC.

Having fled their countries due to conflict and persecution, refugees often find themselves in limbo, where they face barriers to studying, working, and pursuing their passions such as sport. Refugees are in need of access to solutions that allow them to rebuild their lives. Resettlement is one solution, yet according to UNHCR, less than one percent of the more than 26.4 million refugees worldwide are resettled each year. More innovative solutions are needed to respond to this global crisis. 

“While we continue to encourage States to increase the number of resettlement spaces, UNHCR also urges them to develop additional third country routes for refugees like private sponsorship and scholarships at post-secondary institutions which will increase access to protection and solutions for refugees,” explains Rema Jamous, UNHCR Representative in Canada. 

Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program provides a unique model for the development of complementary pathways to safe third countries by mobilizing community actors, such as schools, community groups, and businesses, to actively participate in refugee protection through sponsorship, one that has the potential to be scaled internationally. The Student Refugee Program is one such pathway which provides resettlement to refugee youth through sponsorship from Canadian post-secondary schools. 

Supporting these student athletes is part of Sheridan’s deep commitment to global citizenship and pushing boundaries toward innovative, collaborative solutions to complex problems. 

“Sheridan is proud to welcome two-time Olympians Rose Nathike Likonyen, Paulo Amotun Lokoro and James Nyang Chiengjiek as students to our Trafalgar Campus in Oakville this fall,” said Maria Lucido Bezely, Sheridan’s Dean of Students. “The dedication, resilience and tenacity that they have shown in the pursuit of their athletic and personal goals will contribute to their success both on and off the track. We are so pleased that these inspiring athletes have chosen the Sheridan learning community as they settle into life in Canada as permanent residents, and we look forward to supporting their journey.” 

Building on WUSC’s 40 years of experience providing education opportunities to 2,100 refugees through the Student Refugee Program, this new pilot leverages athletic scholarships and sponsorship to provide access to education as a pathway to resettlement for refugees in a safe third country. This year, Rose Nathike, Paulo Amotun, and James Nyang will join a cohort of 153 student refugees who will study at 80 institutions across Canada through the broader program. The expansion of complementary pathways to resettlement through athletics has great potential to raise global awareness and mobilize new funds, engage new actors, and expand support to an even larger number of refugee youth. 

“What Rose Nathike, Paulo Amotun, and James Nyang will remind the world on the Olympic stage in Tokyo, is that we have a collective responsibility to uphold the rights and help realize the potential of millions of refugees around the world. WUSC is pleased to collaborate with our partners to find innovative solutions for all refugees, and looks forward to welcoming Rose Nathike, Paulo Amotun, and James Nyang to Canada after the games,” explains WUSC’s Executive Director, Chris Eaton. 

About WUSC
WUSC is a Canadian non-profit organization working to create a better world for all young people. We bring together a diverse network of students, volunteers, schools, governments, and businesses who share this vision. Together, we foster youth-centred solutions for education, economic opportunities, and empowerment to overcome inequality and exclusion in over 25 countries across Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Our flagship program, the Student Refugee Program, has been providing Canadian post-secondary education and resettlement opportunities to young refugees for over 40 years.

About Sheridan 
Founded in 1967, Sheridan is one of Ontario's leading postsecondary institutions, educating approximately 43,000 full- and part-time students every year from campuses in  Brampton, Mississauga and Oakville. An award-winning institution, Sheridan attracts students from across Canada and more than 110 countries. As a trailblazer in unique arts, technology and health care programs, Sheridan has always been on the leading edge of innovation ensuring students learn job-ready, practical skills and develop the confidence, empathy and problem solving savvy that allows them to push boundaries in an ever-changing world.

Pictured at top: Rose Nathike Likonyen (right), James Nyang Chiengjiek (centre) and Paulo Amotun Lokoro (left).

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