May 31, 2022

Vancouver, BC – At the Inspiring Stories of Resilience event on Thursday, May 26, the Langara College Foundation launched the Humanitarian Impact Fund, in partnership with Women Leaders of Tomorrow. 

The new fund will support refugees and other students impacted by crises around the world, providing access to a range of opportunities from awards, scholarships, and bursaries to support tuition and books, living expenses, and other students’ needs. 

The event, highlighted by keynote speaker Shakila Zareen, marked the start of Foundation’s one-year campaign to raise $250,000 to help oppressed individuals reach their dreams and potential through education. Zareen, a survivor of domestic violence in her native Afghanistan, has spoken at international women’s conferences around the world. 

“It was an inspiring evening hearing directly from women who have achieved so much in the face of adversity,” said Heidy Rahnumah, Development Officer, Langara College Foundation. “The Humanitarian Impact Fund will help support future Langara students who face similar challenges.” 

Following the keynote, Dr. Gretchen Ferguson moderated a panel discussion featuring Friba Rezayee, Khatira Daryabi, and Doaa Thabet. The panelists shared personal experiences of fleeing their home countries amidst war and violence. They described the challenges they faced and how education empowered them and created new opportunities while they built new lives in Canada. 

About the speakers: 

Shakila Zareen was born and raised in Afghanistan and at the tender age of 17, she was forcibly married to her first cousin. Her husband abused and assaulted her on a daily basis. When she stood up for her rights and refused to be abused anymore, her ex-husband shot her in the face with a shotgun. Her story of bravery resonates with thousands of women with similar stories in Afghanistan and the world. Shakila’s voice has lifted so many other women giving them the courage to speak, fight for their rights, to put an end to the patriarchy and violence against women. She has spoken at various international women’s conferences, such as Women Deliver 2019, and the International Women’s Shelter conference in Taiwan 2019. She is involved with World Vision Canada to end child marriages in Afghanistan and worldwide. 

Dr. Gretchen Ferguson has dedicated her career to fostering international and local connections for community – based research, learning and action for sustainability, community development, economic and social inclusion, and Indigenous economics. Her expertise is in the Sustainable Development Goals, the social economy, and adult education. She is passionate about decolonization and reconciliation. As senior program manager at The Forum, Gretchen leads an initiative to improve access to financing for diverse women entrepreneurs and members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities across Canada. She worked at Simon Fraser University for 15 years as an instructor, researcher, and lead for community-engaged initiatives. Gretchen holds a PhD in Human Geography from SFU and a master's degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of British Columbia. She is Board Co-Chair of Women Leaders of Tomorrow since 2020. 

Friba Rezayee was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and moved to Canada as a refugee in 2011. She broke the social stigma of dark times in the Taliban regime and became the first Afghan woman athlete to represent Afghanistan in Judo at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. She is the founder and Executive Director of a Vancouver based non-profit called Women Leaders of Tomorrow (WLT). She supports highly qualified Afghan women and girls to pursue their education in the United States and Canada by matching them with scholarships and bursaries. Friba has spoken at the House of Commons and the Women Deliver Conference 2019. She has also appeared in international news outlets such as the Deutsche Well (DW). 

Khatira Daryabi is a women and children's rights activist and was born and raised in Afghanistan. She is currently completing a dual degree in Bachelor of Psychology, International Relations, and a Master of Business Management at Sauder School of Business with a full scholarship. In Afghanistan, Khatira faced violations of children and women's rights and discrimination against her Hazara ethnic group which inspired her to bike to school and teach other girls to do the same. She ran biking protests for peace and equality in Kabul, despite the threats and traumatic experiences due to her activism. She left Afghanistan alone at age 14 and started a new journey in Canada as a refugee to pursue higher education. She was placed in foster care but used every opportunity to thrive, which included becoming a finalist for the 2020 International Children’s Peace Prize, despite the cultural shock, language barriers, and not having a home to belong to. 

Doaa Thabet is a Yemeni Interior Designer, a multi-passionate creative, and a believer in the power of human connection through art, architecture, design, and communication. She studied Architecture at UBC and graduated from the Post Degree Diploma in Business Management at Langara College. After war broke out in Yemen, she dedicated her graduation project to designing The Yemeni Museum to celebrate and preserve Yemen’s architectural heritage which was demolished by fire. The project was featured at multiple exhibitions in Jordan including Amman Design Weeks’ student exhibition in 2017 and won a competition for memorable Interior Design projects across Jordanian universities in 2018. During her time at Langara, she was a continuous volunteer in student clubs and was the lead organizer at TEDxLangaraCollege. Access to education enabled Doaa to do what she loves, and it allowed her to heal while she continues to come to terms with the consequences of a homeland at war and rebuilds her life in Canada. 

About snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ Langara College  
Located in beautiful Vancouver, BC, Canada, snəw̓eyəɬ leləm̓ Langara College provides University, Career, and Continuing Studies education to more than 23,000 students annually. With more than 1,700 courses and 130 programs, Langara’s expansive academic breadth and depth allows students of all ages, backgrounds, and life stages to choose their own educational path. Langara is also known as snəw̓eyəɬ leləm 'house of teachings', a name given to it by Musqueam, on whose unceded traditional territory the College is located.  

Learn more.  
Mark Dawson 
Manager, Public Affairs 

Friba Rezayee (R) and Shakila Zareen (L) speaking at the launch of the Humanitarian Impact Fund.