December 24, 2015 12:23 pm
Updated: December 24, 2015 12:46 pm

Syrian students get second chance after Concordia offers sponsorship

WATCH ABOVE: Concordia University is sponsoring the education of five Syrian refugees. Global's Felicia Parrillo reports.


MONTREAL – Dunia Al Melhm is an 18-year-old student, originally from Homs, just west of Syria.

During the revolution, Dunia’s father was captured and killed by government forces.

A photo of Dunia’s father and brother in Syria.

Dunia Al Melhm

She fled to Damascus with her mother and siblings.

READ MORE: 5 ways you can help Syrian refugees in Montreal

“In Damascus, there were always bombings. It was a very dangerous situation,” she told Global News.

“My mother went to Qatar with my little brothers, my sister went to her university and I stayed with two brothers.”

As the situation worsened, Dunia’s uncle took her to Turkey.

There, she eventually enrolled in Al Salam, a school founded by the Syrian Kids Foundation (SKF), a Canadian non-profit organization that offers services to Syrian refugee children.

She received her high school diploma with a 97 per cent overall grade.

Dunia Al Melhm holds her diploma after graduating from Al Salam School in Turkey.

Syrian Kids Foundation

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She couldn’t believe it when Concordia University said it wanted to sponsor the education of five Syrian students – and chose her.

“When Canada announced its decision to bring in 25,000 refugees, I think we all started talking about what we could do to help,” said Bram Freedman, the university’s Vice-President of Advancement and External Relations.

The university will fund the students’ tuition for one year, with the possibility of renewal.

READ MORE: Donations pouring in for Syrian refugees in Montreal

Dunia has applied to a Bachelor in Biochemistry, but that’s just a starting point.

“I don’t want to just study biochemistry, I want to study medicine,” she said.

Her goal is to become a doctor, specifically an obstetrician, but she also wants to do research so she can solve medical problems that science cannot.

“She’s amazing,” said Elsa Bendine, a volunteer at SKF.

“She’s extremely lively, she’s joyful, she’s bright.”

The foundation will cover the cost of bringing Dunia and her classmate, Mouhammad Sarhan, to Montreal and will cover their living expenses.

READ MORE: Royal Victoria Hospital could house Syrian refugees, says Montreal

To Dunia, the university’s help means the world.

“You just feel very happy because it’s like you own the whole world,” she told Global News.

Dunia Al Melhm in an undated photograph.

Dunia Al Melhm

Dunia will move to Montreal next summer – just in time to begin the fall semester with her new classmates.

© 2015 Shaw Media

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