Dammee Sero has come a long way, from a refugee camp in Kenya to be an award-winning student at Laurier Brantford.
Dammee, who is originally from Ethiopia, received a World University Service of Canada scholarship to study in Canada at Laurier. Students living in refugee camps can apply to the WUSC Student Refugee Program for a scholarship, with the funding donated by students at Canadian universities. Universities sponsor a student refugee.
The 25-year-old has been selected as a 2017 Education Champion by the Education WORKS Alliance.
Dammee, who is studying Human Rights & Human Diversity at Laurier, is an outspoken advocate for the power and importance of education.
"My motivation comes from the love I have for education, the encouragement and recognition I received," says Dammee, who used to walk for more than an hour to attend school in Africa. "And, also, to make sure that my mom's sacrifice wasn't in vain."
Dammee's mother fled Ethiopia with her children in 2001, leaving to escape political persecution of their ethnic Oromo people – a persecution that still continues. Dammee's father was a teacher and was jailed several times.
Dammee praises his mother, who passed away in 2015, for her caring and compassion, and wanting the best for her children.
The Laurier student moved with his family to the Kakuma refugee camp in 2002 when she was 10.
This past year, Dammee was one of 10 students in Canada to receive the 3M National Student Fellowship Award, which is given to college or university students who display outstanding leadership.
Having to leave Ethiopia and having lived in a refugee camp for 10 years, Dammee is very aware of what it means to lose something.
"Learning is the only thing that can never be taken away from you, and learning expands your horizon. It is amazing to see how it can turn your life around for the better," she says. "So go for it. Learn and learn whenever you can. It is the best decision."
Dammee has finished her BA at Laurier and will officially graduate this June. She is working part time as a research assistant on a project related to the wellbeing of women and girls.
Future plans include doing a Master's degree and attending law school.
Canada is now Dammee's home and she plans to build a life here, though she can see herself returning to Africa to work on specific projects on a temporary basis.
Story by Mark Skeffington, Education WORKS Alliance
Photo by The Expositor