Minister John McCallum, speaking to the winning team, Syrious.

Photo: Jacob Dubé

Case conference aims to help Syrian refugees in Canada

In Business & Technology /

By Jacob Dubé

A case conference where students were tasked with finding solutions to help Syrian refugees moving to Canada was held on Saturday.

The competition, organized by the Ryerson Muslim Students’ Association (RMSA), involved 16 teams of students from different programs. They pitched their ideas to a team of judges, with an appearance by the Canadian minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, John McCallum.

“We wanted to do a case competition at TRS and we didn’t want it to be a regular, generic type of event. So we decided to take the Syrian refugee cause and infuse it into this case competition,” said Husain Mulla, VP Marketing at the RMSA.

The case that the teams were tasked with finding solutions for was about a Syrian family of three that had just come in to Ontario after several years of applying for refugee status. The father, Jamal, had previously owned a business and his son requires special medication. The teams had a budget of $10,000 and six months to put their hypothetical ideas in motion.

They were limited to original ideas only, and could only use an existing idea if they greatly expanded on it.

“Oftentimes business students get a lot of flack for not being involved in social issues, so we thought this is a perfect opportunity to get business students on board for this event,” Mulla said.

The top four teams were selected in a pre-judging process to present their ideas to the entire group. Their ideas included starting a cultural integration plan to teach refugees about Canadian culture, an app that provides help with language skills, job hunting and access to emergency lines, and a hotline that refers refugees to various resources.

The winning team, Syrious, pitched an app with a “Tinder-like interface” where Syrian refugees could connect with Canadians that are offering accommodations or job offers.

“It takes work to make [refugees] comfortable and succeed in Canada,” McCallum said.

The group of judges included Wendy Cukier, one of the founding members of the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, a Ryerson business alumnus as well as some Syrian business owners.

RMSA president Radwan Al-Nachawati said that Ryerson’s involvement with helping the Syrian refugees motivated them to create the conference.

“It’s so important to humanize the situation, and we hope the case is also able to do that, it speaks more in depth of an example of what life as a Syrian refugee is like,” Al-Nachawati said.

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