GAME CHANGERS: Halifax Refugee Clinic Wins 2017 Experiential Learning Award

February 5, 2018

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The Game Changers Awards Gala recognizes exceptional Halifax businesses and Connectors who hire youth, provide meaningful experiential learning opportunities and inspire others to take action in retaining youth. This year’s gala took place on October 30. Nine awards were presented, and the Halifax Refugee Clinic was the recipient of the Experiential Learning Award, Small Business Category. 

The Halifax Refugee Clinic is a not-for-profit, non-governmental, community-based organization that provides no-cost legal and settlement services to refugee claimants in Nova Scotia who are unable to afford the services of private legal counsel. The organization has a large roster of students throughout the year from many disciplines that do placements, practicums, internships and service learning. 

Julie Chamagne, Executive Director at the Halifax Refugee Clinic shares how offering experiential learning opportunities has benefitted the organization.


What has been the biggest benefit of hiring students for your organization?

There have been so many tangible benefits of engaging students in our organization. We are a community-based volunteer model out of necessity, but also philosophy! Our model has the benefit of allowing us to have more power and serve our clients in ways a small organization simply couldn’t without these resources. From accompanying clients to medical appointments, to conducting in-depth research on human rights violations around the world, students allow us to sustain and expand our important services. 

One of the other long-term benefits is that we know we are helping to inform and sensitize the next generation on refugee, newcomer, and human rights issues. Whether they work directly in the domain or not, we know that future doctors, lawyers, counsellors, social workers, and business people in the community will have an unparalleled understanding of refugee rights.


What is something you have learned from your students?

We are constantly learning from our students! It is trite but very true that “while we teach, we learn” and this is especially true in our organization. Refugee and human rights issues are multi-faceted and ever changing and, to impart this to our students, we have to keep up to date, understand the complexities, and confront our own knowledge gaps. In this way we are constantly challenged to expand our understanding and to view issues through different lenses. 

Students come to us with their own unique personalities and backgrounds, and we are made richer as an organization by having these different perspectives around us all the time. Many students astound and inspire us with their ability to negotiate difficult challenges, produce quality material, and go above and beyond for our clients!


How does your organization take advantage of the many acclaimed post-secondary institutions in Halifax?

The Halifax Refugee Clinic has direct contact with professors, support staff, and students from many of Halifax’s post-secondary institutions. We regularly give lectures, speak on panels, conduct workshops, participate in conferences and symposia, and host site visits. 

Additionally, our experiential learning opportunities are such a success due to the incredible access to talent in the city, and we would not be able to take advantage of these opportunities elsewhere.


CLICK HERE to learn more about the Game Changers Youth Retention Action Plan.