Gifts have impact on lives of students

Dorcus Bakawa is a good-natured student with an easygoing manner and a bright smile. The third-year engineering student gets serious, though, when she talks about the generosity of the Civil Engineering Class of 1949.

The class established a Civil Engineering Bursary in 2001 for students facing financial hardships and to date 12 students have benefitted from this financial life-line. In 2011 Bakawa, an international student from Uganda, was awarded the $3,000 bursary when it mattered the most.

“I was sitting with a friend when I opened the email and it said I was getting $3,000,” she recalls. “I was so happy I screamed and gave my friend a big hug.”

She phoned her father in Uganda, too, to share the news. As an international student Bakawa pays full tuition—considerably more than Canadian students do. Add to that the cost of textbooks and living expenses (she lives with her two sisters and chips in on the rent) and it’s easy to see how costs can quickly add up.

Of the $3,000 bursary, $1,500 was from the Civil Engineering Class of 1949.

“I am so grateful that they would help me without even knowing who I am,” she said. “I hope that God rewards them too, for them being helpful to us and reaching out to us. I can never thank them enough.”

After arriving in Canada Bakawa took her first year of engineering through the U of A engineering transfer program at MacEwan University. The summer before she started at the U of A, Bakawa was involved in a serious car crash. She suffered a brain injury and lost vision in one eye for several weeks. Even after a month of rehabilitation at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, she was literally on shaky ground.

Doctors told her to take a year off school but Bakawa would have none of it. She compromised and took just two courses in her first semester and five in her second. But she was having difficulty focusing on her studies and found that her energy levels were lower than they had previously been.

“I used to work at Tim Hortons every day while going to school. I would be in classes from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and then work at Tim’s from 4 until 8 p.m. But after the accident I would get so tired and fatigued that I couldn’t work and go to school. I thought maybe I could work on the weekend but I have to do assignments on the weekends too.”

All things considered, she has been doing all right academically. She benefits from services provided by Specialized Services for Students with Disabilities office on campus.

“It’s tough,” she says of her academic program, “but I am getting through it.”

But financially, things were getting more and more difficult until she received a second bursary from University of Alberta International.

Now in her fourth year of studies, Bakawa is hoping she can make up for the courses she missed after her accident. And she’s looking forward to joining the work force and becoming a professional engineer.

“I am willing to travel anywhere for my first job, so that I get to know what the field is all about and get the experience,” she said. “After that I would love to stay in Canada and work. Canada has given me the education I need and helped me so much with school and the university has helped me so much.

“I will see how it goes but I would love to stay in Edmonton—or anywhere in Canada.”


Check the latest Engineering Legacy Newsletter to learn more about Dorcus story and other ways to give.