Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund Recipients2020-12-22T13:29:47-05:00

Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund Recipients

2019 MDSF Winner: Prabasha Indrajit Rasaputra

Suvansh Chhabr

Chartered Professional Accountant
Carleton University

My name is Suvansh Chhabra and originally I am from India.

In 2008, my parents left their home and stable life in India, to provide my sister and I with a better education and future. Since we arrived, I have always put in my best efforts at academics, extracurricular and home life, to make all my parents’ sacrifices worth it.

At Canterbury High School, I was able to maintain a high academic standing, with an over 90% average in all four years. I participated in a variety of extracurricular activities. I was enrolled in the demanding dramatic arts program and acted in five plays. I also directed a student-written play at the Canterbury’s Arts Festival and volunteered for the Canterbury’s Children’s Theatre Festival, by acting in a play.

In addition to my contributions to the arts, I also played for many of Canterbury’s sports teams. Sports have taught me many valuable lessons, including the value of hard work, determination, and teamwork. Over the course of four years, I played badminton, baseball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, wrestling and tennis. I have put in countless hours before and after school, at practices and tournaments, and enjoyed every moment of it! Some of my most significant positions included assistant badminton coach and captain of the boys’ volleyball team.

At Canterbury, I was part of several clubs: Tech Crew Club, Key Club and Student Council. At Tech Crew Club, I held essential positions, requiring a lot of responsibility and organization, such as stage manager and head of stage crew. I have done tech for many assemblies, talent shows, a musical “Mama Mia” and Canterbury’s Children Theatre Festival. At Key Club, we encouraged leadership through serving a community. We made non-slip socks for children at CHEO, sandwiches for residents of Shepherds of Good Hope, sleeping mats from milk bags. We also ran UNICEF fundraisers, organized food drives and implemented initiatives to help keep the school clean. At Student Council, I was Co-Head of the Athletics Committee, where we conducted badminton, basketball, ping-pong and volleyball tournaments. Outside of school, I have volunteered at the Hintonburg Community Centre teaching kids badminton and served my Indo-Canadian community by volunteering at my local temple, the Ottawa Durga Mandir.

Being a student with both a high academic standing and involvement in a diverse range of extracurricular activities, I believe I have the determination and skills to pursue my goals. I want to attend Carleton University for its accredited accounting program and obtain my Chartered Professional Accountant designation.

My lack of financial backing is the greatest challenge between me and my goal, and, unfortunately, I cannot overcome it on my own. The Marion Dewar scholarship will reduce my and my family’s financial stress. It will give me the opportunity to exemplify my indefatigable motivation to earn a Bachelor of Commerce degree and pursue a successful career to help myself, my family and others.

Thank you OCISO and Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund!

2019 MDSF Winner: Prabasha Indrajit Rasaputra

Mohamed Aboudlal

Honours Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics
University of Ottawa

My name is Mohamed Aboudlal. I was born in Tripoli, Libya and came to Canada at the age of two. I am 17 years-old and currently attend the University of Ottawa where I’m pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics (Emphasis on Biophysical Science).

I joined the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa (BGCO) in 2016, and it soon became like my second home. I am thankful to the BGCO, because it allowed me to become involved in sports and clubs and provided me with opportunities that I otherwise would not have had. This encouraged me to get involved with school extracurricular activities at school. Since then I have participated in a wide variety of sports, clubs, and events.

One notable program that I became involved with in high school however was the Specialist High Skills Major Program. A requirement of this program is to do a co-op placement, which I did at the BGCO in 2019, since they have given me so much. After the co-op, I continued volunteering there. Another component of the Specialist High Skills Major Program was volunteering with Special Olympics Ontario (SOO), an organization that provides individuals with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to participate in sports. I participated in every single SOO event and was lucky enough to volunteer at the 50th Anniversary 2019 SOO Invitational Youth Games in Toronto in 2019. I quickly learned how privileged I am to have the ability to participate in sports and physical activity, and it exposed me to the many disparities that exist with access to physical activity. However, people with disabilities throughout Canada are frequently marginalized and do not possess the same opportunities. My goal in the future is to continue my involvement with Special Olympics Canada, and use the knowledge obtained from my kinesiology degree to improve the accessibility of physical activity for children with disabilities, thereby increasing physical literacy in children and youth. You can see that Special Olympics has had a big effect on me and my choice of university programs.

This scholarship will be a big help, especially considering recent cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program. My goal has always been for equal access of opportunities for success and leadership, through the development of a dynamic, inclusive, and engaging community. I am infinitely thankful and grateful for the numerous opportunities that I had. These experiences have been an integral component of my personal development. This has inspired me to give back to my community and provide others with the same opportunity that I had, and propels me to continue being an active citizen in the future.

Thank you to OCISO, Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund and Somerset West Community Health Centre!

2019 MDSF Winner: Prabasha Indrajit Rasaputra

Leenah Abdelrazeq

Health Sciences
Carleton University

My name is Leenah Abdelrazeq and I am currently a student at Carleton University in the Health Sciences Program (concentration in disability and chronic Illness). Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do”. I always believe that one should not settle, but rather strive to be the best version of oneself.

Despite all the setbacks that I have experienced in my life, I have always pushed through and learned from those difficult times. For instance, one of the greatest challenges I faced was moving to Canada in 2015 when I was 13. It was very difficult for me to leave my family and friends behind and start over. Also, I had to work twice as hard as my classmates, because I had to learn a new language and get accustomed to a new culture and way of living. I decided to do the things I thought I could not do.

No matter how challenging it was, I was resilient and overcame the challenges with grace. For instance, I have always loved and excelled at science. However, when I arrived in Canada, I was doing very poorly in science, due to the language barrier and new teaching system. I decided to work tirelessly towards the best final science lab report. I ended up winning the grade eight science award.

I continued my journey of academic perseverance throughout high school. In grade nine, I won the Student of the Month award. In grade 10, I had a 99% average in science and my first 90% in English. In grade 11, I received the academic award for having the highest average.

I was also able to help others through volunteering. I volunteered at a variety of children’s programs, such as Kid Meets Animal Day, Paint Night, Mother-Daughter Breakfast and countless summer camps. I also volunteered in many seniors programs related to dementia care, healthy living and fitness. Some of my other favourite volunteer experiences involved women’s empowerment programs such as self-defence classes. I also volunteered at community potlucks and for school activities, such as Calculus Club, Fun Day, the Day of Pink anti-bullying campaign and Girl’s Fitness Club.

One of the most important experience was my co-op with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was assigned to four young kids of different ages and backgrounds, who needed an extra support in boosting their self-esteem and self-confidence. We did it through various activities. I found this experience to be an awakening, because it showed me that many kids simply want to be listened to and feel valued.

This experience inspired me to pursue a career as a doctor, which will allow me to connect with other people and help them live healthier and happier lives. In high school, I also joined the Heart Specialist High Skills major program. This program provided me with opportunities to explore the health care field and develop various skills. This experience also reinforced my love and admiration for this profession.

This scholarship gives me a fair chance to reach my goal, by lowering the costs of university and the amount of time I need to work throughout my studies. This scholarship will help bring me one step closer to accomplishing my big dreams.

Thank you OCISO! Thank you Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund!

2019 MDSF Winner: Prabasha Indrajit Rasaputra

Prabasha Indrajit Rasaputra

Biomedical Science
University of Ottawa

My name is Prabasha Indrajit Rasaputra, and I am currently a student at the University of Ottawa in the Biomedical Science Program.

My mother pushed me as a child to do better in school – by sitting with me at the dinner table and watching me do my homework, helping me when needed. As I grew up, she would give me worksheets and books to work over the summer, so I would be ready for the new school year. I always appreciated my mother’s commitment. I am an only child and my father worked to support our family, so the majority of my time was spent with my mother. Ever since I was a child, my mother wanted me to have a career in the medical field one day.

As I grew older, I started to question my possible career choices. So I completed a co-op course at a pharmacy to see how I would enjoy working in this area. I found that the medical field was truly for me.

That was the same year that my mother was diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer.  Before she passed away, she told me that I could choose any career, not necessarily in the medical field, as she just wanted me to be happy. But I assured her that this was my dream too and her face lit up.  Since then I have made it my goal to succeed and work in the medical field in memory of my mother.

So, I did my best to achieve this goal. I had an over 90% average during grades 10, 11 and 12. In the meantime, I took two part-time jobs to help support my family, as my father had to take a lot of time off work to be with my mom while she battled cancer.

Also I focused on getting involved in many school activities. I was elected as the communications officer, which made me responsible for involving students in all school events and activities. I also was elected to the leadership camp committee where I was in charge of creating a meal plan and purchasing food for 200 youth for a weekend. I was the head fundraiser for the Relay for Life event that our school hosted to raise money for cancer research. I led the Man-Up club that focuses on ending sexual harassment at school. At this club, we conducted many campaigns and hosted numerous fundraising events to support a young women’s shelter and help Indigenous women and children. The largest campaign we organized was an assembly for high school students where we brought in in Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, who committed suicide after being sexually harassed and abused. This assembly was really powerful, and moved many students and teachers.

Outside of school, I accumulated over 440 volunteer hours with numerous programs around the city. I was most influential as a volunteer with the Bayshore Community Association in my neighborhood. I led younger volunteers in creating a skating rink for our neighbourhood. With the resources we had, we set up the rink in a short time. We continuously maintained the rink by shoveling, using a snow blower and flooding the rink. As winter progressed, city officials told us that ours was one of the best maintained rinks in the city.  I also helped organize the Bayshore Community Association’s annual winter festival, a successful event with over 1,000 participants! I still continue to volunteer in my community.

This scholarship will benefit me greatly and help me to achieve my childhood dream.

Thank you OCISO! Thank you Marion Dewar Scholarship!

2019 MDSF Award winner: Hilary Dondji Akazong Dulcinée

Hilary Dondji Akazong Dulcinée

Financial Mathematics and Economics
University of Ottawa

My name is Hilary Dondji Akazong Dulcinée. I am Cameroonian by birth.  As immigrants, my parents had to abandon their careers and sell all their belongings to bring my five siblings and me to Canada.

When they arrived in Canada, my parents had to go back to school. My mom attends school while working at night. My dad could not return to school, so he took an online program, but still has not found a job. To support my family, my older siblings and I have contributed money to pay for rent and other necessities. I have been working 30 hours a week after school for more than two years, contributing to my family income.

“Good, better, best.  Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best” is a quote from Tim Duncan that I live by. This quote has been my life motto and it has boosted my determination and motivation. I wake up every morning with a goal of being better than yesterday.

This quote has helped me to be an honour roll student for three consecutive years, increasing my average to over 90% in my senior years. I have also received the subject award for French for three consecutive years.  This quote has also pushed me to challenge myself to participate in multiple competitions, including the Waterloo Math Competition, the Canadian Team Competition, the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario Programming Competition and the “Concour d’art oratoire”. I received many certificates of distinction for having the best marks. Using my coding knowledge, I created an app which moved my school’s student council voting system beyond paper-based ballots.

A good education does not only mean going to a good school, but also learning about global issues. I have been part of the Justice League at Saint Patrick’s High School since grade nine. Through this club, I have been part of a great initiative to help raise awareness about world issues such as cancer, bullying and more. I have also educated my community about modern day slavery and oppressed countries through a presentation I did at the annual Black History month event.

Throughout my years at Saint Patrick’s High School, I demonstrated leadership by volunteering at the Canadian Open Mathematics Challenge and Junior Open Math Olympiad and as the captain of the Afro-Caribbean dance team.  Outside of my school leadership, I was honored to be invited through my co-op job placement as an android app designer at Digitera Interative to attend the RBC and Youth Tech Employment in Ottawa Forum. I was also a guest of JAM Impact Consulting Group. As a co-op student at these events, I was able to share my opinion about the limitations that youth encounter in obtaining a tech job in Ottawa, as well as the barriers to getting a co-op job for work experience. I also had the chance to meet some mentors to discuss my carrier path and receive some advice in preparation for university.

My most important goal was to attend either the University of Waterloo or the University of Ottawa. I have chosen to study Financial Mathematics and Economics at the University of Ottawa because this is the first step to becoming either an actuary or a financial analyst. My long-term goal is to be an actuary at the World Bank. This would provide me with the opportunity to work in a balanced, financially rewarding and globally-respected profession that makes a difference and gives back to the community.

Receiving this scholarship is the only way I can attend university without being stressed by money.  This scholarship provides me with a chance to make my good better, and my better best, as being the best is my only quest.

Thank you OCISO and Marion Dewar Scholarship!

2019 MDSF Award winner: Alexandra Nesrallah

Alexandra Nesrallah

Biopharmaceutical Sciences
University of Ottawa

My name is Alexandra Nesrallah and I’m from Lebanon.

The Marion Dewar Scholarship has been awarded to numerous newcomer students and each of the winners has a unique story behind their success and mine is next.

Chapter One of my novel unravels a story of a family of eight living in a village. They worked excessively hard to maintain a moderate lifestyle. Step by step, they were discovering their potential and were strengthening their skills to build a “better” life.

As each of the brothers started building their own families, many of them chose to immigrate to Canada for better opportunities. Working in fast food restaurants, taking the night shifts and doing overtime was necessary to support families and save some money. Soon, the brothers decided to begin a fresh chapter in their lives in Canada by starting their own enterprise, “A Everest Locksmith”. While the brothers were struggling with the new chapter in their lives, their families and children also experienced immigration adversities. One of these children was me.

Chapter two describes my academic path.  My parents had not acquired enough education to assist with my homework, and a tutor was deemed “unnecessary.”  High standards were set, yet they seemed impossible to reach. A need of ESL classes made me believe that I was not the same as everyone and I was not good enough.  It was hard to communicate, difficult to comprehend and challenging to make new friends.

But the example of my father and uncles’ families showed that no obstacle is too big.  I strongly focused on academics.  Steadily, I improved my English, gained more confidence and improved my organizational and communication skills.  So hard work paid off.  I received the Director of Education and Female Student of the Year awards for two consecutive years and I earned annual distinctions on the high school honour rolls.

Chapter three unravels my active involvement in school and community life. At high school, I have been involved in the Student Council, the Saint Patrick High School Leaders and the Teen Advisory Group at the Greenboro Ottawa Public Library. As Co-President of Student Council, I had the opportunity to organize numerous events, such as welcome tours for students in grades seven and eight, annual Fam Jam, Christmas show, school Oscars, the Coffee House for Cancer fundraiser and much more.

I expanded my interest in other volunteer opportunities.  For two years, I volunteered for the Run for Women event by supervising various stations, setting up, cleaning and handing out the prizes.  I contributed to women’s mental health awareness, an issue I battle in my life. I hosted a bingo night at the Billings Lodge retirement home and the most rewarding part was witnessing the smiles on the seniors’ faces. These experiences are very important in my life!

Now, setting goals and attaining them is part of my everyday life. My next chapter involves my future studies in Biopharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Ottawa. In this regard, receiving the Marion Dewar scholarship is a great honour!  The financial aspect remains minimal compared to the pride I feel in demonstrating the necessary qualities to earn this award.

Through the chapters of my story such as immigration, academic adversity, financial need, school and community involvement and my future goals, I am happy that I have demonstrated the sufficient criteria to earn this scholarship!

When one chapter ends, another one begins, and it will be remain just as unique as the previous ones.

Thank you OCISO, the Somerset West Community Health Centre and Marion Dewar Scholarship!

2018 MDSF Award winner: Assile Moussaoui

Assile Moussaoui

University of Ottawa

My name is Assile Moussaoui and originally I am from Lebanon.

I was born in Lebanon in the midst of war, although my family immigrated to Canada in 2003.  I have carefully studied the struggles my parents face on day to day basis like the challenges of learning English and integrating themselves in a new environment and new culture.  Due to language barriers, my father had no choice but to take the low-paid jobs at evening and night shifts.  They instilled in me the importance of hard work and   strong education. Since my early age, I recognized their hardships and made schooling as my greatest priority, putting my best efforts in excelling my study.

Currently I am a senior student at St. Paul High School.  I have been recognized as an Honour Roll Student for the past four years and I have received awards for my aptitude in Art, Law and Anthropology.  These are credited to my exceptional academic standing that I worked hard for.  I learned to put all of my efforts into my schoolwork and giving back to the community.

I am an active member in my community.  I am a teacher’s assistant at Al Manahil Arabic School.  I spend every Saturday morning assisting first grade students in learning the basis of the Arabic language that is immensely important in remembering your history and keep your cultural heritage alive.  I have also participated in a Peer Pal Program in my school, acting as a mentor to a young student who was facing challenges at school.

Helping others made me feel happy, so I decided to pursue a career in Biotechnology.  This is the best field where I can apply my passion for helping those in need and my passion for sciences. And I have been accepted to study Biotechnology at the University of Ottawa!  I have chosen this program because it has a great potential for driving medical progress. This field is like an encyclopedia of Biology which has vast branches stretched from Agri Biotechnology to Genetic Engineering.

This scholarship is important to me as it could lessen the economic stress of going to university. I am extremely thankful to my parents who worked hard to provide an opportunity for me to receive an education.  I am more than grateful that the Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund and OCISO recognize the economic difficulties that immigrant children like myself face, and are lending a helping hand.

Thank you Marion Dewar Scholarship! Thank you OCISO!

2018 MDSF Award winner: Mouhamad Al Aarab

Mouhamad Al Aarab

Aerospace and Mechanic Engineering
Carleton University

My name is Mouhamad Al Aarab, and I am originally from Syria.

Due to the war, my family had to leave Syria in 2012.  We moved to Lebanon where we lived in a refugee camp. In the camp, we had food and water, but we were unable to go to school.

In 2016, we came to Canada through the support of UNICEF. I was full of hope, but I was also scared. I felt that I would not be able to study, learn and succeed. I was very anxious and stressed because after four years without proper access to education, I did not believe in myself anymore. I only knew a few words in English and some short sentences.  As for mathematics, I knew the multiplication table up to 10 and I remembered some formulas, but I did not know how to use them.  I attended school in Syria, but I did not remember many specifics about the subjects I had studied.

I started school in Canada in September 2016. Within my first academic year, I completed grade 9, 10, and 11 math. I learned many things and my mind became refreshed.  Every moment that I was at the school, the knowledge that I lost started to come back.

My educational journey was not smooth or easy.  My first mark in math was 27%.  However, I did not give up. I started attending a homework club every day. I went to school in the morning and I would stay there until 9 pm many evenings. I spent all my time in school. Even on Saturdays, I went to the school.  As a result of my persistence over the years, I have achieved an average of over 87% in my Grade 12 courses. I have also received many awards: RBC Spirit of the Capital Award for Academic Perseverance presented by Youth Ottawa, Principal’s Award  for providing outstanding service to the school while maintaining high academic standing, OCDSB Award in recognition of Outstanding Student Leadership, Gloucester High School Staff Bursary for making Gloucester a more safe and caring community, Gloucester High School Subject Award for achieving the highest mark in an Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course, Ontario Scholar Award for obtaining an average of at least 80% in any six Grade 12 courses, and finally Honour Roll for 2017-2018.

I am also devoted to my community. Throughout high school, I was always helping new students integrate into the school by familiarizing them with the school rules. I also helped them apply their strengths towards personal and academic goals. Additionally, I used to volunteer with the Food Bank as an Arabic interpreter.  As well, on Sundays I taught basic Arabic language at the Islamic Society of Cumberland.

In high school, my goal was to attend university, and my next goal is to become an Aerospace engineer. My guidance counsellor helped me submit my application to Aerospace and Mechanic Engineering university programs, and I am happy that I will study it at Carleton University. I hope to learn new engineering theories and practices to develop innovative aerospace technologies.

This is a big honour for me to receive a scholarship award from OCISO and the Marion Dewar Scholarship Fund!  I know that this scholarship will be a big support to my educational journey.

I would also like to thank my guidance counsellor, all my teachers, and my Homework Club Team at the Gloucester High School for their tremendous help!  I am thanking my parents for their great help and support.  Without their support, I will not be able to achieve my goals.

Thank you all!

2018 MDSF Award winner: Samra Brkic

Samra Brkic

Neuroscience and Mental Health
Carleton University

My name is Samra Brkic, and I am originally from Bosnia.

When I was three years old, my parents immigrated to Canada from the ruins of a country wrecked by a war. Since then, I have watched my parents continuously push forward with the hopes of a better future for my brother and me.  Despite the many challenges my family has faced, I am still grateful for the opportunity to grow by overcoming these hardships.

“Shoot the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars,” and for as long as I remember, I have held his inspiring words close to my heart.  I truly believe in the power of always aspiring to do better.

Just over five years ago, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis with overlap syndrome. I decided that instead of focusing on all of the opportunities I had lost, I should appreciate all of the opportunities still available to me.  I learned to embrace my circumstances and make the best of them.  My challenging circumstances led me to new light that has opened the door to my greatest accomplishments, and I could not be more grateful for that.

After loosing my ability to participate in physical activities, I devoted myself to academics and have never looked back. I discovered that I love to learn. In high school, I achieved the highest average in my grade every year, and I was even awarded the Governor’s general award.

Along with academics, my disease also motivated me to explore a wider variety of extracurriculars. I joined my school’s Alter Reality Club, which focuses on supporting our local and global community. In the four years that I was involved in the club, we funded the construction of a school in Haiti and a well in Kenya. As well, we contributed to improving health care systems in India.  We collected enough batteries to save the lives of 15,000 children through the campaign Zinc Saves Lives, and we collected thousands of non-perishable items for our local food drive.  We participated in Annual Cleaning the Capital events and when I was in Grade 10, I even ran our first “Syrian Refugee Project”. Planning, organizing and leading all of these events has been the most challenging and rewarding experience I’ve ever had.

In addition to academics and Alter Reality Club, I have filled my time with other activities as well.  I starred in my school’s play, “The Dining Room,” which led me to the privilege of performing on the National Arts Centre stage. That was an opportunity that helped me develop my confidence and introduced me to so many amazing people. Additionally, I have attended OCDSB Leadership Camp and Ontario Education Leadership Camp as well. I have always made my best efforts to be involved in my school and community life.

Now I am beginning university and hope to continue exploring more exciting opportunities. I am studying a Bachelor of Science Honours with a major in Neuroscience and Mental Health at Carleton University, and I could not be more excited.  My future goals are not focused on attaining only one specific career. Instead, my vision of success includes any future where I am able to use my knowledge to help others.

The Marion Dewar Scholarship means a lot to me. The grant will help alleviate my family’s financial pressure and it has given me reassurance that I have made the right choices.

Thank you Marion Dewar Foundation and OCISO!

2017 MDSF Award winner: Gebreslassie Fesha

Gebreslassie Fesha

Social Services
Algonquin College

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.

2017 MDSF Award winner: Salar Farokhi

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!

2016 MDSF Award winner: Eustache Iriho

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.

2016 MDSF Award winner: Safi Bwira

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.

2015 MDSF Award winner: Baininwa Amissi

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.

2015 MDSF Award winner: Ndoole Muhima

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.

2014 MDSF Award winner: Diana Rincon Salazar

Diana Rincon Salazar

Civil Engineering
University of Ottawa

2014 MDSF Award winner: Biftu Omar

Biftu Omar

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.

2013 MDSF Award winner: Uyen Do

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.

 2012 MDSF Award winner: AnhThu Dang

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).

2012 MDSF Award winner: Emily Wang

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.

2012 MDSF Award winner: Rawan Kulaib

Rawan 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.

2012 MDSF Award winner: Marie-Laure Uwajeneza

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.

2010 MDSF Award winner: Hanan Awneh

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.

2010 MDSF Award winner: Ijabo Abdi

Ijabo Abdi

Faculty of Sciences
Ottawa University

2010 MDSF Award winner: Damaris Sarai Gomez

Damaris Sarai Gomez

Health Sciences
Ottawa University

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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.