In recognition of accomplishments and dedication to helping refugees in his community, and for his work as co-chair of the Trent World University Service of Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program's local committee, Nhial Abraham, a third-year Chemistry and Forensic Science student originally from South Sudan, has been named the inaugural recipient of the prestigious Alena Heitlinger Leadership Award.
“The purpose of WUSC is crucial because it connects social justice with education to strengthen marginalized communities worldwide,” says Nhial, who fled South Sudan as a refugee in 2021 and is now a Canadian permanent resident. “It is humbling to get the leadership award, which recognizes the teamwork and commitment of the whole WUSC staff.”
The $3,000 Alena Heitlinger Leadership Award is named in honour of Dr. Alena Heitlinger, a retired professor of Sociology at Trent. The award, which recognizes a refugee student who demonstrated leadership the University, was created by Professor Heitlinger and her husband and retired Trent professor Dr. David Morrison as part of a $200,000 gift to the University on Giving Tuesday in 2022.
The inaugural award was presented to Nhial by Professors Heitlinger and Morrison at a special Trent WUSC Student Refugee Program event at Champlain College on November 5. At the event, Prof. Heitlinger shared her own experience as a Czechoslovakian refugee in Britain supported by the World University Service following the Soviet invasion in 1968. Four current WUSC scholars also shared their own stories as refugees fleeing wars in Syria and South Sudan.
Speaking of the award, Prof. Heitlinger says it is her way of giving back to the organization that supported her when she needed it most.
WUSC is a network of individuals and more than 80 postsecondary institutions across Canada who believe that everyone is entitled to the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to a more equitable world. At Trent, the WUSC local committee is made up of students, faculty, and community members who are involved in international cooperation initiatives. Learn more about the WUSC program at Trent University.