Since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, Western teams have mobilized to support those most affected by the crisis.
Western International has been working with campus partners to address the immediate needs of current students, and with institutional partners across the country to formulate a national response as a global citizen and institute of higher learning.
“When these tragic world events happen, our office is often a central place bringing people together to provide an appropriate, and comprehensive response,” said Lise Laporte, senior director, Western International. “That includes working with our colleagues from Western’s mental health and wellness team, student support and case management, the office of the registrar, the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and housing, among others.”
Shortly after the invasion began Feb. 24, Laporte and her team began reaching out to Western students from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus to offer support. They made a similar outreach to Pakistani students last Friday following a bombing in Pakistan.
“Our goal is to provide support and resources for all students affected by world events, not just in this situation, which is highly visible right now,” Laporte said.
The team is also working closely with the Western Ukrainian Students’ Association. “We’re taking their lead in terms of what they would like to see and what students need,” Laporte said.
Western International is supporting the association’s relief efforts for those living in Ukraine, serving as a drop-off point for donations (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until March 10), and offering a safe place for affected students to study and gather at the Dr. David S.H. Chu International Student Centre.
“It’s really hard for them to be in the regular hustle and bustle of campus right now, as other students carry on with their everyday lives,” Laporte said. “They were looking for a place to ‘just be,’ or where they can concentrate on their studies together.”
Mental health and well-being
Representatives from Western’s support and case management team are supporting the drop-in space for any students who need counselling or referrals.
Additional priority appointments for mental health support are being offered through Western Health and Wellness. A Community of Care Session has been scheduled on March 18 for group support for students affected by the war in Ukraine.
Immediate financial assistance is available for international students. Affected students should contact Western International by email or by calling 519-661-2111, ext. 89309, to be referred to student financial services.
Western’s student support and case management team is working directly with academic counsellors across all faculties to help facilitate student requests for academic accommodations during this stressful time.
As the end of the academic year approaches, Western International is working with partners in housing to ensure students who can’t return home due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine have access to short-term accommodation over the summer months.
Haven for scholars
Laporte and her team are also anticipating the needs of future Ukrainian students and scholars whose studies and research have been interrupted due to the war and will remain interrupted for the foreseeable future.
“Once the fighting ends, there will be a rebuilding phase and we’re trying to figure out what role Western can play in supporting displaced students and scholars on a short-term basis,” Laporte said. ‘I think we all have a responsibility to determine how we can provide a level of support, a safe haven that provides a continuity of education and research so that when it is time to rebuild, there are things to rebuild on.”
Plans are underway to create a student refugee scholarship program, and to support academics and researchers through Western’s scholars-at-risk program.
The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is also hoping to provide short-term research opportunities for displaced graduate students, and the Ivey Business School is exploring how it can support Ukrainian MBA students to join their program.
Many of the levers we are pulling to help students and faculty affected by the situation in Ukraine are already in place,” Laporte said. “Our scholars-at-risk program, as well as our connections across campus, with national organizations and with U15 counterparts already exist.
“We have had several experiences with global situations–especially in the last three years – where we need to quickly draw partners together to effectively respond to the individual and collective needs of our students, and the broader Western community.
Western staff seeking help with the situation in Ukraine can access support through Western Human Resources. Immediate and confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services are accessible 24/7/365 by calling 1-844-880-9142 or by logging in to the LifeWorks website.
If you have questions, you can reach the Employee Well-being team through the confidential email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community members looking to offer help or support can visit Stand With Ukraine.