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March 15, 2023
For Immediate Release
WATERLOO — International Students Overcoming War (ISOW) invites the community to a keynote speech by Kim Phuc Phan Thi, known as “the girl in the picture” as the subject of one of the most haunting and iconic images of the Vietnam War. Kim Phuc will bring a message of peace and hope at the start of a three-day, student-led international conference hosted on Wilfrid Laurier University’s Waterloo campus by ISOW and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The keynote address, followed by a reception, book signing and photo exhibit, is free and open to the public. It takes place Wednesday, March 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Senate and Board Chamber on Laurier’s Waterloo campus. Laurier’s Laurier’s Interim Provost and Vice-President: Academic, Dr. Heidi Northwood, will offer welcoming remarks. Registration is required.
“Kim Phuc offers us a rare glimpse into how awful the lived realities of war can be, but also the possibility that from suffering can come hope and a determination to help others,” said Gavin Brockett, faculty advisor to ISOW and vice-dean of Laurier’s Faculty of Arts.
ISOW will welcome delegates from around the world to the Students as Partners conference at Laurier, which will explore how students and their institutions of higher education can lead sustainable responses to humanitarian crises.
“Kim Phuc’s message of forgiveness and hope will start the conference on a positive note and set a tone that we want to maintain throughout all of our discussions,” said Brittany Ferguson, a student leader in ISOW.
The student-run conference will feature workshops and plenary sessions to foster research-based discussions and action plans. Speakers include Rema Jamous Imseis, UNHCR’s representative in Canada; Duncan Ross, creator of the Times Higher Education ranking of universities addressing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals; Friba Rezayee, founder of Women Leaders of Tomorrow and Afghanistan’s first female Olympic athlete; and Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar.
“The conference will forge new partnerships between universities, students and NGOs that are all committed to find ways to work together to use our wealth of resources — particularly human resources — to contribute to impactful solutions to the ever-growing humanitarian crises that are the result of war today,” said Brockett. “It allows us to showcase just what our students have achieved and can achieve when empowered and supported properly.”
The conference is hosted by ISOW, a student-run and student-funded educational humanitarian initiative at Laurier. ISOW originated in a Laurier classroom in 2013 when students were inspired to respond meaningfully to the devastating impacts of war by providing scholarships to students from war-torn areas. Since 2013, ISOW has supported 30 scholars from Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, Somalia and Afghanistan. ISOW student leaders promote intercultural learning and globally engaged citizenship at Laurier, and previously hosted conferences in 2015, 2018 and 2020.
“Students are critical when it comes to humanitarian action, and we can have a large impact,” said Ferguson. “ISOW has been able to do a lot of great things while being student-led. Our hope is that delegates will see this through the conference, take it back with them, and involve students in this type of work when they return home.“
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Gavin Brockett, Vice-Dean, Faculty of Arts
Wilfrid Laurier University
Lori Chalmers Morrison, Director: Integrated Communications, External Relations
Wilfrid Laurier University
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