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Refugees Rewarded at HEC Wintegreat Ceremony

The second cohort of refugees received their Wintegreat at HEC certificates capping a twelve-week course aimed at providing a toolkit for professional and personal integration into their host nation.

Wintegreat Ceremony - 14 feb. 2019 - HEC Paris

Emotions ran high at a February 14 ceremony uniting Wintegreat staff members, teachers, HEC staff and student mentors and the participant refugees for one final exchange. The refugees in HEC’s term-long course hailed from as far afield as Syria, Afghanistan, Tibet, Libya and Gambia. They had spent the best part of three months forging an educational experience designed to help disenfranchised yet educated refugees revive their professional projects in France. That was thanks to lessons designed to overcome language barriers, find cultural points of reference, create sustainable social relations and providing essential professional tools to find work.

HEC students, mentors and staff members also explored with the dozen participants avenues towards further education possibilities. “These daylong sessions have helped me pick up on my professional career,” said Fady Emat in a confident French. The athletic-looking Libyan shared his emotions in front of an audience in the T206 amphitheater which included his adoptive family. “Thanks to my French professors here, Stéphanie Som and Géraldine Chamart, I’ve been given essential French communication skills. Just as important, Wintegreat has become a group of friends. All of you work with devotion and take our destiny very seriously.”

Wintergreat - HEC Paris - Fadi Omar Mohamed and his certificate

Catalyzing French Social Development

Since it was first conceived in September 2015, Wintegreat has implemented intensive and free courses in ten of France’s best academic establishments. It was founded by Théo Scubla and Eymeric Guinet, two ESCP Europe students who dreamt of a way for refugees in France to resume their professional careers and redirect them to partner companies “seeking to diversify their recruitment and find new (international) talent.” The self-described social startup now boast a dozen staff members and over 600 volunteers. The company’s national program coordinator, Than-Nhan Hua, declared herself pleased at the outcome of this second program and said she was eager to build on it for a third cohort beginning on March 11. “These 12 participants have overcome the inherent challenges of difficult access, poor weather conditions and the teething problems of a nascent program to acquire skills that are vital to prosper in France.”

HEC’s Dean of Programs Eloïc Peyrache underlined his pride at HEC joining the Wintegreat program. “Businesses have an important role to play in reducing inequalities and improving social development in the country,” he declared. “By allowing a better employability of these refugee populations through training and support, HEC Paris is also at the heart of French social development.” One of the English tutors underlined just how difficult the journey has been for the participants by quoting an extract of Home by Somali British writer Warsan Shire: “No one leaves home unless/ Home is the mouth of a shark/ You only run for the border/ When you see the whole city/ Running as well.”

HEC Paris - Wintegreat - Sana Abbas

‘We Feel Humbled’

Gambian refugee Yaya Jatta waxed lyrical in accepting his certificate: “This program is like giving a light to someone who is living in hell, refugees who have lost both hope and home. You gave us confidence to stand on our own two legs.” Yaya turned to his mentor, HEC student Rebecca: “By changing one life, you change the world. You have made us believe again, allowing us to stand firm against the difficulties we still face.”

Jatta’s words and those of several other recipients of the certificate moved Marcelle Laliberté, Dean of Student Affairs to declare: “We feel humbled by your comments and the commitment you have shown to attending this course. You are an inspiration to our students and staff and your spirit can best be summed up in the concept of never giving up, standing up for your rights and working hard. With these principles, doors will always open for you.”

The organizers of the next 12-week program made a public appeal for HEC student and staff members to volunteer their time and talents to helping the future Wintegreat for HEC participants succeed. All those interested, please send your candidacy at hec@wintegreat.org