“From the librarians
to the reception desk
to the computer lab,
everyone made me
feel like I was an
actual person, that
they cared about
me, that they knew
me by name.”
Full Faven Mergia was once a
stranger to Canada and to
Booth UC. Now as a
Canadian citizen and a
Booth UC graduate, she is
paying it forward
It’s no accident that Faven Mergia enrolled in the social work program at Booth UC. Born and raised in a refugee camp in Kenya, she came to
Canada when she was 14.
“I arrived here on World Refugee Day,” Faven smiles, “so that’s always been a special day for me.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to get into a career where I could help and support people,” she explains. “Our family received a lot of help
in the refugee camps from social workers and community workers, so I knew that that was something I really wanted to do, my way of paying
The Place to Be Needed Support
Faven’s parents were Ethiopian refugees who settled in Kenya and From the staff to the faculty to the new friends she met and still has,
immigrated to Winnipeg in 2006. She attended the Daniel everything about her three years at Booth UC was amazing for Faven.
McIntyre Collegiate Institute and then the University of Winnipeg,
but soon discovered that Booth UC offered a social work program, While she loved the smaller classroom settings, it was the professors
and she decided to take a tour of the school. who stood out.
Her mind was made up almost from the moment she walked “They were always approachable,” Faven comments. “If I had
through the door. questions or simply wanted to discuss a point that had been made in
“I was impressed,” Faven says. “The people at the front desk were so class, the professors always made time for you; it wasn’t like they were
friendly, and everyone I met was really nice. It didn’t feel like some rushing out to be anywhere else. You felt like you actually mattered.”
huge institution; it felt very warm and personal. That’s when I knew That extended to Booth UC’s staff.
this was the place where I wanted to pursue my education.”
“The feeling I felt when I first came to Booth never left me,” says Faven is now a team leader at Peaceful Village. Her new responsibilities
Faven. “From the librarians to the reception desk to the computer lab, include mentoring Booth UC students doing their own practicums,
everyone made me feel like I was an actual person, that they cared just as she was once supervised.
about me, that they knew me by name. There was always somebody Last year, Faven was awarded the Strive for Excellence award at the
there to support me when I needed that support.” first annual Ethio-Canadian Charitable Promotional Awards held
by the Ethiopian community of Winnipeg. Recently, she received
TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT the Emerging Leader of the Year award at the African
Community Awards and was accepted into a master’s program at
Speaking of support, as a person of faith, Faven appreciated the Athabasca University.
fact that Booth UC is a Christian university college, where she could “Faven is highly regarded by the Ethiopian community in Winnipeg
attend chapel and take courses in religion in addition to her and a true example of an individual who is able to overcome hardship
course load. and reach her dreams,” states Professor Bonnie Bryant of Booth UC’s
department of social work. “She lives out the school’s vision—
“Christians like my family were in the minority at the refugee camps,” “Education for a Better World”—in her work with newcomer youth on
Faven recalls. “We didn’t have the freedom to exercise our faith as we a daily basis and as a strong advocate for social justice, demonstrating
would have wished.” this throughout her practicums and as part of her social work studies.
She is the voice for those who have no voice.”
Throughout her time at Booth UC, there was always someone willing “By helping newcomers to Canada
to pray with her during hectic or stressful periods, or she could simply and new Booth UC students, by
retreat to a quiet space of her own for prayer and contemplation. actively participating and giving
back to my community, I’m
“Booth UC made that possible,” she says, “and I valued that aspect of trying to treat people as I
the institution. I almost felt as if I was going to Bible school and doing was treated, with kindness
my school degree at the same time.” and generosity and respect,”
Faven says. “That’s my
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT priority now.”
With her heavy workload, there was not much time for campus
extracurricular activities or clubs.
“I didn’t live in residence, but sometimes it felt as if I did because
I was always at Booth UC,” Faven laughs.
Her friends would joke that she should just bring in a mattress and
move into the computer lab.
“I’d usually be the last person out of the lab and the first person in.”
Off-campus, however, Faven was involved with her church and
Winnipeg’s Ethiopian community. She was also a tutor at Peaceful
Village, an after-school program that works with young newcomer and
at-risk youth, and she mentored high school students.
Faven graduated in 2014 and was valedictorian at her class convocation.
Her family and community turned out to celebrate her special day.
“It meant a lot to share that moment with the people I loved, and for
them to know how Booth UC had played such an important role in my
life. They got to put faces to the names that they had been hearing
about over the years.”
Faven had hoped to take some time off, but she was almost
immediately offered a part-time position at The Salvation Army’s
Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre, where she had completed
practicums during her Booth UC time. There, she facilitates a fine-arts
class for L.E.E.P, an employment preparation program for newcomers.
“On a day-to-day basis, I have to write emails, prepare presentations,
network, supervise and mentor staff,” she says. “I’m able to do
everything I do now because Booth UC and my professors prepared
me for what lay ahead.”