New not-for-profit aims to help international students find equal opportunities in Manitoba

International post-secondary students contribute nearly $400 million to Manitoba’s economy each yearbut Akhil Damodharan and Khushi Kalra say they see too many of these students continuing to struggle.

The two Manitoba post-secondary students, who both immigrated to Canada from India as children, started their own non-profit organization to provide newcomers and international students with more equal opportunities.

“We’ve seen immigrants coming to this country being treated unfairly,” Damodharan said in a Saturday interview with CBC. Weekend morning show host Keisha Paul.

“They had to go through three, four, five extra steps to get what they needed – things like getting into college require an extra step…or an extra cost.”

They started their nonprofit to help give students an equal platform, he said.

They are calling their organization Rey – a name called Kalra was inspired by the star wars hero, and is meant to suggest “resilience”.

It aims to help international students in three key areas – providing legal, medical and navigational resources.

That includes things like helping students find part-time work — even arranging meetings with potential employers, Damodharan said — or help connect people with homes for rent with students in need of accommodation.

Kalra, who said her parents immigrated to Canada to avoid international student tuition fees, says many of the international students she meets need the help because they are struggling financially.

“[International students] usually have to pay an insane amount of fees,” she said. The weekend morning show.

In addition to their studies, many also take paid jobs, “so that they don’t have to ask their parents for money back home,” she said.

However, international students are limited to working 20 hours a week – not enough to cover rent or textbooks, she said.

Another part of the problem, Kalra said, is that many immigrants have credentials that aren’t recognized in Canada.

“They put in that amount of work and money and then they moved to this country for better opportunities, but you end up working in grocery stores.”

Damodharan’s family moved to Canada with dreams of more opportunities and an “easier” life, which he says turned out to be unrealistic.

“[It’s] as [hard] or twice as hard for an immigrant to get those jobs, to get those opportunities, because as an immigrant you have to prove you’re worth more,” Damodharan said.

He said he would like to see more policies put in place to give immigrants equal education and employment opportunities, as well as help in becoming a permanent resident or citizen.

Damodharan and Kalra say they are keen to help international students, although they study and work themselves.

“I think both of our parents are very, deeply… very proud, but immigrant parents will never say that,” Kalra said.

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