MDSF winners

MDSF winners 2018-01-26T12:01:46+00:00

Gebreslassie Fesha  
Social Services
University of Ottawa


My name is Gebreslassie Fesha and I come from Ethiopia. I love my country even though we had some struggles. Ethiopia had excellent schooling and great jobs for men but not for women especially for single women. My parents had divorced, and my mother became single with no job, no income, and no hope. I did not want to see my mother struggling by herself, and chose to be with her.

When I was in Grade 5, we received our immigration papers stating that we were accepted to Canada. This made us feel extremely happy because we knew that we were going to have a better life after the hardship that the two of us were going through in our country. We arrived in Canada during the summer of 2010. The weather was hot, the place was nice, but what confused me was … the diversity of Canada. I thought we would be the only black family in the neighborhood, but the number of black people around made me feel like home. I felt like if I turned to the corner, my uncle would be waiting with a slipper in his hand.

Summer passed and once I started going to school I faced challenges from the beginning. I was new, did not know the schooling system and could not speak English. Some kids were not very welcoming but instead they were making fun of me, throwing snowballs and so on. At that time I felt so frustrated, isolated and alone. I was missing my school and my friends back home and was ready to quit school, but I had to think about my mother who was struggling so hard to provide us a better life here. I should not have felt weak and helpless, so I focused on school and language proficiency. My goal was to learn English as fast as I could. I started reading books, watching TV and talking to other immigrants who were learning English too. One year later I started speaking English and was ready to learn more about community, customs and culture. When I went to Woodroffe High School I felt welcomed. This was a place where I made a lot of friends and found understanding and support. Also, OCISO groups rendered not only a tremendous academic support at Homework Club but also helped with gaining social and life skills. Thank you very much.

Currently, I am very involved in community life through volunteering and participating in various activities. I love playing sports, especially basketball and soccer. I am also very thankful to my mom who has been doing her best to support, encourage and motivate me at every step of my life and been with me when I needed help.

I am very grateful for the Marion Dewar Scholarship that lightens my financial burden and allows me to focus on my study of social services work. Your generosity has inspired me to help others and give back to the community. I want to help newcomers to overcome challenges and achieve their goals through providing customized services. I want immigrants to feel welcome and assure them that there are people who care for them. I was able to overcome challenges with the support of many people and now I feel ready to help new immigrants who will face many barriers upon arrival to their new home. We are all contributing to make Canada an inclusive country, and a contribution from each of us can change the life not only of one person, but the community as whole. Thank you.

Salar Farokhi
Biomedical Health Science
Carleton University


My name is Salar Farokhi and originally I am from Iran. As a very young boy, my parents had always told me to love everyone, no matter what religion or ethnicity they are. In religion classes, I was taught that we all are equal and the greatest accomplishment in life is to make the world around you a better place. However, the world in which I lived did not follow the same rules. People around me viewed me differently because I did not pray like them. They refused to accept me because they thought that my religion was false. We moved to Turkey where we lived for two years. Being foreigners, we went through many hardships in this country but I found my way of being happy. I started helping almost every newcomer in my neighborhood by interpreting and translating for them.

In December 2014, our flight landed at the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International airport. The moment I stepped out of the plane, I felt happiness. I still remember the people in the airport, the street lights, the car that brought us to the Reception House and every other little detail. In Ottawa I was very excited to enroll in school, make new friends and live happily forever. However, this was not really the case. At school I had a very hard time making any friends. I found quiet places at lunchtime so I could eat my lunch alone as I did not want to sit in the cafeteria. Some of the other students constantly made fun of me and I truly did not know why. However, after I started Grade 9 at St. Pius X, I finally found a place where I could fit in. There were others just like me at Pius! They were from different backgrounds and some of them did not speak English either. I decided to help these new kids fit in, feel welcomed and learn the language faster. I started be-coming friends with as many new students as I could.

All this time, from Grade 8 all the way until Grade 11, learning English was my first task. For every lesson, I had to spend twice as much time as others did. I used to go home and translate almost every word in the lessons and in the textbooks in order to finally understand it. In those few years I was in ESL, I had to spend nearly 4-6 hours studying at home which seemed unbelievable to other teenagers. I worked my way through ESL classes and even won the gold medal for the ESL course at St. Pius X and in Grade 12 I achieved an A+ on every essay that I wrote.

In the meantime, I started my volunteering at St. Pius X ATC events where people with mental disabilities as well as most of the new students would attend. I also started volunteering at the Baha’i centre in Ottawa where I help with camps for all youth including newcomers.

Helping others made me feel better about myself and so in Grade 11 I decided to become a doctor since science has always been my passion and serving people is the greatest accomplishment I could ever achieve. I believe that living in Canada provides people with the luxury of opportunities and I am taking this gift to work my way through my four years of Biomedical Health Science at Carleton and later medical school in order to become a doctor. I want to serve people and serve the country that provided me an amazing opportunity and to prove to others that in this great land we are all given the chance to shine. Attaining the Marion Dewar Scholarship is a great honour and also a great help in my path to achieve my long awaited dream: to help my world become a better place. Thank you OCISO! Thank you Marion Dewar Foundation!

Eustache Iriho
Engineer program


My name is Eustache Iriho, and I come from Burundi.  We are a family of seven (four children, my aunt and my parents).  I was born in Burundi during a civil war in 1997 where my father was always on the run because of persecutions.  My mother and aunt raised me until we were able to be reunited with my father.  We first fled to Tanzania for safety where my family and I stayed for two years before we moved to the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi where I grew up under the protection of The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In the camp, every person was entitled to six kilograms of corn per month and some beans, sometimes with cooking oil, sometimes not.  Once in a while, we would get help from the Malawi Red Cross with some necessities like clothes, blankets, soap, paraffin for lighting our houses at night and grass for rooftops (we did not have houses like the ones here).  I used to dream of one day having a daily breakfast, not the daily porridge which you sweeten with salt for the lack of sugar we had.  We only had one hospital in a Camp filled with more than 15,000 refugees.

Focusing on school was a huge problem especially with poverty issues at home.  I would wake up everyday early in the morning, go help my parents at the farm then come back for school.  I know school life is not easy anywhere but some circumstances are just overwhelming.  I was used to monotonous diets, but how are you supposed to study if the only thing you think about is how are you going to eat today?  All I knew was that once I pursue my secondary education with flying colours, World University Service of Canada (WUSC) would help me to continue my education as refugees were not allowed to go to any Malawian college or university.

My family and I came to Canada in 2014.  My first foreign experience was how cold it was while the sun was shining.  The first thing I fell in love with was how multicultural Canada is.  The refugee camp I used to live in had people with different backgrounds but it was a whole new experience when I arrived here.  I started my schooling in grade 11 two weeks before the end of the year.  I already had a strong foundation in school however, I struggled with English.  I received the award for Most Improved Player with the Boys Wrestling Team and a certificate from the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing.  I was also awarded the Jason Lachance Achievement award and the Peter Brazeau Award.  So far I am a member of a drumming group called Loyal Kigabiro, a non profit organization that helps under privileged people in Burundi and promotes the rebuilding of Burundian culture.  I love playing sports, especially soccer.  I am also interested in music, dance, poetry, performing arts, and TV shows (I guess you can understand why for a guy who grew up without a TV) hahaha.

I believe that no one was born a failure or inferior.  School was and has always has been my first priority.  I always aim high to achieve my goals.  If I can point out, my first marks in a Mathematics test did not please me at all but we are all capable of bringing our dreams to reality.  Everyone wants more in life and the only way to success is through hard work and commitment.  I dream of becoming an engineer.  We live in an evolving world and I would like to contribute towards making it a better place to live.  Every small thing a person offers to the community can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

Safi Bwira
Pharmacy Technician program


Hello. My name is Safi Bwira and I come from Congo (D.R.C).  When I was really young, my city of Goma was attacked by enemies.  These enemies took my family and destroyed my village.  My aunt was the only adult in my family who survived.  She adopted me as her sixth child and became my mother.  After the attack, we were forced to move to Uganda where we did not know anyone. We had no food and no education because my aunt could not pay for our school fees and we did not speak the local language.  We were alone.  These challenging situations made me lose hope.  What I did not know then, is that one day I too would get to see the light.

On July 17, 2012, my family moved to Canada and our life changed.  Some people might say that our life in Canada has been a difficult one. We lived in a shelter for two years before being able to move into public housing.  My mother is still struggling to learn English and to support us.  But for my family and me, life in Canada has been a dream come true because we are finally able to go to school and live in security.

My time at high school was wonderful, but never easy.  When I arrived at Woodroffe High School, I could not speak English properly.  I was really shy to talk to people, and the change of environment was overwhelming.  The shelter where we lived had no access to the internet and had no quiet places to study, but I always found a way to complete my assignments.  I asked teachers for extra help, worked through my lunches, went to Homework Club everyday possible and used the local library for a quiet place to study.  I excelled in French, math and science while English class was my greatest challenge.  I was always worried about it but never gave up.  I eventually found success in all of my classes.  Throughout my struggles, I learned so much and am thankful for all of the help that I received.

It was not only teachers who helped me through my hard times, my community also played an important role.  I am so grateful for their love and support.  I volunteer every weekend at Holy International Pentecostal Church where I sing in a choir and participate in youth groups.  I also volunteer at Carlingwood and Rosemount Library where I organize games and help children read.  I participated in the Leadership Skills Summit program with YOCISO and helped the Good Food Market Project at Michelle Heights Community Centre.  All of these experiences have led me to where I am today.  Now, I am a proud graduate from Woodroffe High school.  When I crossed the stage, I was awarded the Watson scholarship, the Challenge and Endeavor Award and the highest mark in French.  And of course, the Marion Dewar Scholarship for which I am so honoured to have received.  The light was shining so bright that day.

As I look toward my future, I feel hope and excitement.  I have been accepted into the Pharmacy Technician program at college.  The reason I am taking this program is to be able to continue to help people in my community.  I want to dedicate my career to helping people in need.  Everyday I am grateful for my mom who gave me the courage to never give up on my goals.  Because I believed in the power of education, I will make a positive difference in the world.  I truly believe that there is no greater gift.  I will make the OCISO community proud and honour the scholarship’s spirit for the rest of my life.  Thank you for giving me this opportunity.  It is a dream come true.

Baininwa Amissi
University of Ottawa


My name is Baininwa Amissi, I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995. I am currently studding Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa.

Due to political unrest in Congo between the government and its civilians, my family and I were forced to seek shelter in a refugee camp of Burundi. This is where I spent most of my childhood along with my parents and my four beautiful sisters. Living in Burundi was not easy for us.

First, we had to adapt to the new lifestyle and secondly, my father had to find a job so he could keep providing for the family since the refugee camp couldn’t support us with enough food and clothing. After eight years of living in hardship, my father realized that nothing was going to work out and we couldn`t return to Congo because of its unstable national security. He therefore requested shelter from the government of Canada and was able came here as a refugee. After few more years of working day and night, my father was able to sponsor us so we could join him here.

Coming here to Canada had benefited me in many ways. This includes the fact that, I score good result in all of my classes and my marks had gradually increased to a point where I feel proud of myself; whereas previously, my academics performance was unpleasant. This is because at some point in time, I had to go to school without eating breakfast or lunch. My worries were not about school or obtaining satisfying marks. Instead, my worries were about what I was going to eat that night. Now that I am here, I do not need to worry about it anymore.

I plan to join the medical field to become a surgeon. The initial spark to knowing what I wanted to be in life was initiated by the shocking death of my aunt, where she suffered from heart disease. I desire someday in the future to be among the ones to cure cancer or other epidemic diseases facing the global humanity.

While patiently waiting to finish my education, I have dedicated few of my time to helping and getting involved in the community. I have volunteered during the Ottawa Race Weekend, and spent a summer preparing and serving food at the Ottawa Mission. I found this volunteer opportunity very rewarding and I plan on volunteering in a hospital soon.

Ndoole Muhima
Arts & Science
Algonquin College

I am the first born in my family of five siblings. My father was called Bayomba Bahi and my mother is Bunakimwa Anna Kisuba. I attended an elementary school called Faraja in a town known as Goma. When I was nine years old, my entire life changed. My father was killed when my village was attacked. In the chaos of the violence, I fled into the forest and slept there for three days without food or water.

After the death of my father and the end of the war, we fled to Uganda and started living there as refugees. In Uganda, my family had a difficult life. Me and my siblings did not have chance to go to school as we could not afford school fees. My mother struggled to feed us. . She did this by selling necklaces around the capital city of Uganda known as Kampala. She did not know the language spoken in Uganda but she worked as hard as she could to make sure that we survived. Fortunately, in 2012 my life changed forever. The Government of Canada called my family to come and live in Canada as permanent residents. This was my chance to go to school again.

My family was sponsored for one year when we arrived in Canada, and when that year ended we lived in a shelter. During all this time I worked hard in school. No obstacle was too big for me, I always found a way to get my work done. Even if the shelter did not have internet that would allow me complete my assignments that required research, I asked for help and permission at school to allow me stay in the library after school so that I could complete all of my assignments.

My academic interests are Chemistry, Math and Biology. I like these subjects because my future goal is to become a nurse so that I can not only be helpful to my family, but to the entire community. My community involvement includes helping YOCISO to create a video called ‘In My Own Word’, cleaning the school’s Tennis playground at Woodroffe High School and helping the deacon at the Holy International Pentecostal Church to show people where to sit and arrange for church services. I also like reading to improve my English skills as it is Swahili is my first language and English is my second.

Since I arrived in Canada I have achieved awards such as certificates for receiving the highest mark in Science and Math, and Grade 12 Chemistry, a certificate of excellence in grade 10 Canadian History and I was on the Honour Roll I recently got my high school diploma and received three scholarships for my post-secondary education: The Marion Dewar Scholarship Award (OCISO), St. Joe’s Women’s Centre Scholarship and The Donald Watson Scholarship (Woodroffe High School).. My life goal is to become a nurse and a helpful member in my community.

Diana Rincon Salazar
Civil Engineering
University of Ottawa


My name is Diana Rincon Salazar. I am currently studying Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa.
I am originally from Colombia and in 2010, at the age of 15, I moved to Montreal, Canada. It was challenging in a new country especially not knowing the language. But after eight months and lots of determination I was fluent in French and I was able to begin courses such as history, mathematics, and science. In 2012, I received my diploma of secondary studies in Montreal. I was congratulated as one of the highest averages in my school, as well as a mention in physics and mathematics. I was then ready to continue my studies at the Maisonneuve College in Applied Sciences. The language of this college is English, and by that time I did not speak the language and therefore I could not attend this college. After talking to my mother we decided to move to Ottawa in order to learn English and fight for a better future. In summer 2012, we moved to Ottawa, where I started grade 11 in Brookfield High School. However, I was seventeen and was supposed to be in grade 12, but because of my lack of English I redid grade 11. Upon leaving Brookfield, I was a member of the Century Club; this is a club for students with the best averages in each grade. I then moved to study at St. Pius X High School, where I graduated from grade 12.

Since I came to Canada, I was involved in community service. I think that by helping other people I am thanking this wonderful country for welcoming my family and me. In school I was an ambassador in different events where foreigners are integrated into their new school environment. I am also involved in the Seventh day Adventist Church, where I help every week in the Sabbath School for kids.

My strengths are in mathematics and physics. I am good with numbers, but more important than that, I enjoy these courses. This why I chose Civil Engineering and I chose the University of Ottawa because they allow you to study in both English and French and I was proud to have succeeded in my goal of becoming fluent in the two Canadian languages. I thank my family for always supporting and encouraging me in my studies and personal life. I also thank Canada for opening doors, and welcoming me, for giving me an excellent education, and for allowing me to start University and a better life.

Biftu Oma
Aerospace Engineering
Carleton University


My name is Biftu Omar. I am currently enrolled at Carleton University in Aerospace Engineering.

I am originally from Ethiopia and my family and I immigrated to Canada when I was very young. My parents’ chose to leave Ethiopia because, at the time, there was a civil war occurring between the government and the Oromo people (my people), so we moved to protect our family. Shortly after arriving in Canada I began attending school however I didn’t know a word of English. Fortunately, I was very young so I was able to learn quickly. As I grew older, it dawned on me that if I wanted to do well in the future, I had to work hard in school, and I had to take my education very seriously. Moving into high-school, although I made it a goal to work hard in my academics, I also made a promise to myself that I would get involved in as much as I can.

In high-school I was involved in many extra-curricular activities including; Student Council, WAA (Woodroffe Athletic Association), SHOC Club (Students Helping Our Community), T-crew (helps welcome new grade nines to high school), the Blood Donor Clinic, the Basketball Team, the Volleyball Team, and the Touch Football Team. Firstly, I am an active member of the Student Council because I am a big supporter of our school, and I want to be a part of making it the most exciting place to be. Next, I joined WAA because I love playing sports, and I wanted to become a bigger part of the athletic community – whether it is playing on the teams, score-keeping some games, or organizing intramural sports. In addition to this, I joined SHOC club and our school’s Blood Donor Clinic because it was a good way for me to give back to the community while being in school. Lastly, the reason I joined T-crew was because I know how hard transitions can be, so I wanted to do anything I could to make this transition easier for others. Outside of school, I joined a social-justice group held at Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre. I also applied to become a part of an organizing committee with community housing that would plan a huge volunteering event in one of the communities in Ottawa.

My parents have always been supportive of me and have been saving money for my education since I was young, but it has been hard to save money for six children. Financially this scholarship will be a great stepping-stone for me to achieve my dreams. With my dreams in mind, my goal is to further my education through graduate studies and one day give back to my family and community who have given me so much.

Uyen Do
BioMedical Science
University of Ottawa

Uyen Do, the 2013 Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund winner, is a student of the BSc Biomedical Science at the University of Ottawa. Born in Vietnam, Uyen arrived in Ottawa in 2005 and joined grade 5 at the Monsignor Paul Baxter Catholic School in Nepean. She attended ESL classes to learn English and within a year was fluently talking to her new friends. She proved her excellence in academics by getting high grades in her graduating high school and winning awards for her aptitude in Mathematics. Uyen dreams of becoming a physician and is a volunteer at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital. She enjoys drawing and playing the piano in her spare time.

AnhThu Dang
Ottawa University


Achieved Honour Roll and a Silver Medal for attaining an average of 90% and higher in her academic work. While studying, she tutored students to read, write and speak Vietnamese at her elementary school. She actively participated on TWIGS, her high school environmental club to organize recycling initiatives and assisted other students as a member of the anti-bully committee. She hosted a Water Project fundraising event to purchase two water pumps for communities in the Horn of Africa. She was a member of the junior band and Cadets.

AnhThu enjoys music, working with the kids, photography, and spending valuable time with family and friends. Her hope is always to develop herself to be a better person, and her dream is to become a paediatrician because she loves and works well with the children.
She is currently a full-time student at the University of Ottawa studying Biotechnology (Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering).

Emily Wang
Communication program
Carleton University

Maintained outstanding academic achievements and earned a couple of academic awards in high school. In addition to the academic work, she was extensively involved in school and community activities. As a high school student, Emily always participated in activities to create awareness for and support causes. These included running a charity 5k race and also participating in the Remembrance celebrations. She played the piano for seniors living in senior centers, hosted events for new immigrants at the Chinese Community Centre, provided child support care at church, and cleaned the city. She enjoys helping kids and seniors.
Emily likes the Arts, playing piano, ballet dancing, sports and horseback riding. She has a grade 8 certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music, and a level 6 and 7 certificate with the Society of Russian Ballet.
She is currently a full-time student at Carleton University pursuing a Communication program.

Rowan Kulaib
Global Politics Program
Carleton University

Eighteen years ago, my parents left Kuwait for Canada to find a better life for me and my ten siblings. I worked very hard at school and was an Honour Roll student throughout high school. Being an active member of a social justice promoting group, assisting students to identify their needs to adapt in high schools, being a teacher’s assistant in two schools and volunteering at the local mosque have been some of the activities I engage in.

These diverse activities, together with my academic studies, have helped me to understand various important aspects of life and to develop into the person I am today. Attending university was my goal in life and I am very happy to say that I have achieved that objective. I am currently in Global Politics Program at Carleton University to fulfill my aspirations as an individual who continuously engages in social and communicative activities to reach greater heights to explore the issues and complications in today’s dynamic world.

Marie-Laure Uwajeneza
Technology and Security Information
La Cité Collégiale

Being a passionate person, I have been working to continue my post secondary education. I have won several awards and recognition in relation to my school engagements and academic achievements. My passion is to become a Computer Engineer.
This scholarship will enable me to buy relevant books and other important educational materials which will greatly contribute to my success in my studies, thus enabling me to reach my goal.

Hanan Awneh
Interior Design
Algonquin College

I came to Canada as an immigrant who is willing to learn and start a new life experience. I succeeded well during my high school years, and graduated proudly from Lisgar Collegiate Institute. In my four years of highschool experience, I achieved high academic levels, participated in the Art Show every year, and joined the Badminton Team.

Other than my educational career, I also enjoy painting, drawing, photography, swimming, watching movies, and spending time with family and friends. My hopes are always to develop myself to a better person, and to make people around me feel happy and comfortable. I thank you all for giving this great opportunity.

Ijabo Abdi
Faculty of Sciences
Ottawa University

Damaris Sarai Gomez
Health Sciences
Ottawa University

Become A Member Today !

Our Mission!

OCISO supports immigrants through the journey of making Canada their home by providing creative and responsive programs that are culturally and linguistically appropriate, by building community through mutual respect and partnerships, and by fostering healthy and inclusive spaces for open dialogue and healing.

What we do 🙂

We are community based non-profit organization that has been providing services in Ottawa since 1978. We are motivated by the stories of new immigrants, and we are there every stage of the journey. OCISO directly serves over 10,000 immigrants and refugees every year. Our work is augmented by the generous efforts of our enthusiastic, caring and talented staff, volunteers, both established and new Canadians.