Antiochia Scholarships Trust

Alex Olteanu, AST Founder and Chair:

“The idea of setting up the Antiochia Scholarships Trust was inspired by my students in Erbil, Kurdistan. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend one year in northern Iraq, in the capital of the Kurdish Region, and teach Business Management and English to a variety of local students – Kurdish and Arab, Christian and Muslim, from all parts of Iraq and the Middle East.

All were very excited to learn and improve their English skills. Many, especially those belonging to local minorities, such as the Assyrian Christians, or those who had come to Kurdistan from southern Iraq or Syria to find safety and security, had few opportunities to continue their university studies. When I returned to Canada, they told me how much they wished to continue their university studies abroad. They asked me: “Please, don’t let our dream die!”. This is what motivated me initially to set up AST when I returned to Vancouver, in the Summer of 2013.

Since then, we all know that the Greater Middle East is now in greater turmoil than ever. Young people throughout the region – but especially those belonging to minorities, live in unsafe environments, with limited educational opportunities at the post-secondary level. It is only by living in a multicultural environment abroad, obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees and some work experience, then returning to their homes and contributing to the social, economic, and political development of their countries, that these young people from various ethnic, religious and social backgrounds will be able to work together to bring about meaningful long-term change for themselves, their families, and their communities. AST aims to make a small contribution towards this objective.

The AST Website provides a lot of information on how anyone interested in our project can help. Donors can, of course, make contributions to AST. We are a registered Canadian non-profit organization and bank with Vancity - the biggest Canadian financial services co-operative, owned by its 500,000 members and democratically controlled on the basis of one member, one vote. Volunteers can help in the real world by assisting with publicity and fund-raising, but also by helping newly-arrived students integrate quickly in their new Canadian environment, assisting them to improve their English skills, and being part of their support network. In SecondLife, there are also many opportunities to help: new students joining SecondLife will need assistance to overcome the steep SecondLife initial learning curve and get their bearings in this unique virtual environment; once here, they will need English-speaking tutors to help them improve their English and leadership skills, and to develop their own SecondLife projects. My partner Bromo Ivory and I would be happy to talk to anyone interested to contribute to AST, in both the real and virtual worlds."