Queen’s student worried about finding summer employment, supporting family

Student appeals to Kingston’s “caremongering” Facebook group

Maysam Ghani and her younger sister.
Credit: 
Supplied by Maysam Ghani.
As the funds decrease in her bank account, Maysam Ghani can see the stress physically manifesting in her mother.
 
Ghani, a ConEd student going into her final year, was a residence don who returned to her home in Toronto after Queen’s transitioned to remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She lives with her mother, her two older brothers, and her five-year old sister.
 
“It’s kind of on us to help our mom sometimes,” she told The Journal in an interview. “I already help her in terms of rent payments and getting groceries and babysitting my sister.”
 
Ghani, who said she’s already receiving less Ontario Student Assistance Program funding because of cuts, doesn’t have much left in her bank account and is anxious about finding summer employment.
 
“My mom has been so stressed out,” she said. “Her mental health manifests itself physically with her physical health. I can see the physical manifestations of stress on my loved ones. It just really scares me.”
 
Shortly after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a provincial state of emergency, Ghani said her mother and her two brothers lost their jobs. She said while they’re waiting for Employment Insurance to arrive, her family is worried about whether their funds will be enough to support them if the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 
the summer.
 
“A lot of us students who are already low-income are very worried going into the summer without any jobs or sources of income,” she said. “Having to support our families and things like that, it adds another layer that I don’t think every student has to deal with at Queen’s. Especially [for] people of colour and racialized folks who are 
low- income, it could be harder.”
 
Ghani is majoring in global development studies, but her teachable subjects are history and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit studies. 
 
“We’re in precarious situations, we’re not guaranteed jobs at this time, [and] we can’t apply for [employment insurance] necessarily, right? What are we going to do if we all rely on summer employment in order to get through the following year?”
 
While her parents didn’t go to university, one of Ghani’s older brothers does, increasing the financial stress in her family.
 
“He is also struggling financially, more so I think than I am. If I’m thinking about people like my brother who has to work two-plus jobs and still do [a] full time course load and help my mom and be there for me and my little sister and things like that, it’s a lot.”
 
Ghani appealed to a local Kingston Facebook group called “Caremongering” for advice, and said she received a positive response. She said she wanted to plant the idea that there’s a need for financial assistance among low-income Queen’s students who support their families.
 
“I know I’m not the only student who’s in this situation and I know there’s people who are in worse situations and scarier situations. I thought making this post might be a nice way to start a discussion,” she said.
 
Ghani said some of the online responses to her post were helpful, including suggestions that she explore some of the University’s available bursaries, teach students English online, or work as a crisis line facilitator at Kingston’s Sexual Assault Centre.
 
“Those have been really helpful,” she said. “I’ve been thinking about looking into those more seriously and hopefully looking at the bursaries more closely and seeing if I can apply.” 
 
On its website, Queen’s Financial Aid posted a statement acknowledging that the COVID-19 as an extenuating financial circumstance.
 
“The University acknowledges the COVID-19 situation is creating financial uncertainty, and having an impact for some students in the immediate future as they consider their budgets for the next few months.”
 
The Student Awards Office will provide some assistance to meet immediate and short-term needs for students facing unplanned financial challenges due to the pandemic.
 
“However, I want to state that our struggles are interconnected. With or without this pandemic, we all deserve better. Homeless folks in our communities deserve a safe shelter, my family who live in a refugee camp in Lebanon deserve reliable health care, Iran deserves a fighting chance against this virus and this can only happen with the US lifting their sanctions that allow people to die by the thousands.”

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