Dr. Anne Dymond
Dr. Anne Dymond, an art history professor in the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Fine Arts, could not sit idly by as a humanitarian crisis was unfolding in Syria. The fact she had no connection to the country or that it was halfway around the world did not diminish her sense of responsibility. She had to act.
Dymond created a group at uLethbridge called the Refugee Action Committee whose goal was to sponsor those displaced by violence and bring them to Lethbridge. Her involvement included raising awareness around campus, initiating fundraising activities and working with partner groups who would be essential in facilitating the arrival of a new family.
In February 2016, the first family of four Syrian refugees arrived and Dymond’s involvement had really just begun. While getting the family to Lethbridge presented one challenge, helping them settle in a foreign country, overcome language and cultural challenges and establish a foundation for success was paramount.
Upon their arrival, Dymond and the Refugee Action Committee realized how many government-sponsored refugees could use additional support, and she knew the Lethbridge community was keen to help. The committee facilitated the donations of literally tons of household goods to be distributed among the newcomer community. With a team of volunteers, Dymond led a social program to help refugee families learn English. While the children learned by playing, the adults learned through other Arabic-speakers already in southern Alberta.
In some instances, Dymond visited with Syrian families to help them transition to life in Lethbridge. From shopping trips to the grocery store and reading with kids to teaching the mother of a Syrian family how to drive, Dymond’s compassion and kindness played a major role in creating a culture of inclusivity throughout the community.
Dymond believes that when a problem is too big to solve, we can change lives by action. Her work on behalf of refugees inspired her students to take action themselves. Dymond helped them start a chapter of the World University Service of Canada on campus. The group lobbied students to pay $2/term to bring one qualified refugee from a conflict-affected country each year to study at uLethbridge. To date, they have sponsored two students, and are working with the University to create a bursary for sponsored students to help cover their costs beyond their first year.