Friendship and support can go very far 

By Karen Herland

The fundraising organizers (from left) Uche Aghaulor, Rose Wangechi and Pat Hardt at Hardt’s home on May 2. Magnifying glass

The fundraising organizers (from left) Uche Aghaulor, Rose Wangechi and Pat Hardt at Hardt’s home on May 2.

Rose Wangechi had just arrived from Kenya and was trying to find her way around downtown Montreal in January 2002 with only a fall jacket and a map she couldn’t read.

“It took me three hours to get from René-Lévesque to Concordia,” she recalled. “I sat down on Pat’s couch in the International Students Office (ISO) and burst into tears.”

Pat Hardt was used to meeting students from all over the world who were ill-equipped, overwhelmed or homesick. She helped Wangechi get on track and, although now retired, she is still doing so for others. On May 2, she hosted a dinner to raise money for the International Student Support Fund.

The idea emerged nearly a year ago when Hardt, Wangechi and Uche Aghaulor (another student who arrived from Kenya, although her family is originally from Nigeria) discussed the importance of a little extra cash for a student from far away. Budgets can be extremely tight and loneliness is inevitable. Having the means to attend a departmental function, or see a movie with new friends, can make a huge difference. The idea to establish a fund that could offer a $500 bursary to a full-time international student in need was born.

“Pat immediately contributed to the fund without any hesitation,” Wangechi said, at the dinner. Wangechi graduated from Concordia in 2005 (as did Aghaulor) and now serves as alumni officer for student programs in the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations. She became emotional recalling the support she received from Hardt as a student. “Pat was the first person I met at Concordia. I want to honour her for how much she has done for me, and so many others.”

The dinner was yet another example of the dedication Hardt has shown to supporting students who, like herself, emigrated from far away. She came to Canada from Barbados and began as a nurse at Concordia’s health services before working in the ISO until 2006. People from all parts of her life (students she had helped, former co-workers, friends, and colleagues) were invited to attend the dinner. In exchange for a delicious spread of curry, dahl, salads and some impressive desserts, guests were invited to donate to the fund.

Among those present was Nicole Saltiel, director of operations for Advancement and Alumni Relations. She praised the special initiative, an unusual hybrid of support from people within and outside of the university community. “When I tell my peers at other universities that 30 to 35% of our staff and faculty donate to annual campaigns and to funds raised to support students, they’re envious. Concordia is a community with heart!”

Also present were Dean of Students Elizabeth Morey, former Ombudsman Suzanne Belson and former Journal editor Barbara Black. Hardt acknowledged donors who could not be present, such as Ali Mohammadi, who is currently in Iran. Mohammadi graduated in 2002, winning the Malone Medal that year. He, like many of those present, owes a debt to Hardt. He helped by hosting United in Comedy last month. Efforts like his and gifts from individual donors raised $8 000 for the fund. Hardt’s dinner ensured the minimum $10 000 needed for the fund to offer the $500 bursary. “It was wonderful seeing so many familiar faces. Concordia has certainly been a meaningful part of my life,” reflected Hardt after the event.


Concordia University