Malaysian student needs community’s help to stay in Canada

University funding pulled for being gay, atheist

Hazim Ismail on campus, where he studies and volunteers for World University Service of Canada.

Photo by Daniel Crump

A University of Winnipeg (U of W) international student, Hazim Ismail, is on the verge of not only losing his chance to graduate, but at risk of losing his chance to stay in Canada.

“I was disowned for being gay and atheist and had my funding cut off and now need to raise enough for winter term in January 2016,” Ismail writes on a GoFundMe crowdsourcing page he started in hopes of funding his U of W studies.

When Ismail’s mother and aunt found out he was gay and an atheist, they pulled his university money and disowned him.

Ismail came here in May 2013 from Malaysia to study psychology.

“I worked as a headhunter. (There was) so much discrimination, so much racism, colourism,” Ismail says. “And that’s when I started to read psychology articles to know why is this happening. And I’d love to go deeper in it.”

Pursuing psychology is not the only reason he came to Canada.

“I didn’t feel free back in Malaysia,” Ismail says.

Now that he’s here, Ismail has been heavily involved in the community and currently volunteers at the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), to help other dreamers like himself to get a chance to reach their goals.

Unfortunately, now his own journey is at risk of falling short. Last year, his family stopped funding his education and his living abroad after they discovered he didn’t belong to their religion and had a different sexual orientation.

He managed to get funding in place for the fall 2015 term, but the winter term is coming fast and so, too, is the deadline to pay tuition again.

If Ismail fails to pay tuition, he will not only be unable to continue his degree, but also may lose his immigration status. It’s necessary for him to be enrolled in classes to stay in Canada.

In Malaysia, being gay is condemned and homosexuals could face punishments of caning or prison sentences up to 20 years.

While trying to stay in Winnipeg, Ismail has been looking for a job. He’s tried organizing a fundraiser and created the GoFundMe page.

The fundraising page reassured him that people are willing to help. After 19 days, it’s managed to raise $1,925. His final goal is $5000, the amount every international student has to put toward their education each term to take just nine credits. And for Ismail it’s not only about education anymore, but about his freedom as well.

“Everybody wants to find their contribution to the world. For me, I feel like that would be psychology. It’d be nice to able to do that,” Ismail says.

To donate to Ismail, visit

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