Iranian Student Association reflects on scholarship to honour plane crash victims

A wide group shot of the University of Victoria's Iranian Student Association in a classroom.
The Iranian Student Association. Photo taken from the association's official Facebook page.
Sarah Suleman - CFUV - VictoriaBC | 07-02-2021

The international community marked the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine Flight PS752 plane crash on Jan. 8 that killed 176 people including first year University of Victoria (UVic) student Roja Omidbakhsh.

More than a year later, Saeed Rezvani, former president of the Iranian Student Association is reflecting back on the initial moments after the tragedy and the scholarship that was created to honour the lives lost.

“We had many members of the club reaching out. So we have a large group of on social media platforms of Iranians and everyone started saying what is our response going to be to this crash?” said Rezvani.

Rezvani said that as he knew multiple vigils would be held throughout UVic, he began to think about ways to honour the victims in the future.

“I also happen to be involved with Graduate Student’s Society at UVic. And we knew that GSS is planning kind of vigil. So as Iranian Students Association, we thought we would take a different approach, and kind of a longer term approach and we proposed a scholarship,” said Rezvani.

As the idea of a scholarship initially seemed out of reach, Rezvani reached out to leadership at UVic that put him in touch with the associate vice president and the advancement off.

“They helped us a lot in drafting the scholarship and narrative assistance, the fundraising part of it. And, and that's how we got the ball rolling. And it was huge, huge support also from university," Rezvani said.

To fundraise for the scholarship, the Iranian Student Association was planning on collecting money during big social events that the club usually holds throughout the year. Due to the pandemic cancelling those events, Rezvani said that they had to get creative.

“We had to focus more on more online sources, which usually are not as effective. But we were happy with the amount that was raised. And we continue to, to do the fundraising for now online in the future, hopefully, also in person and in a sense that we have,” said Rezvani.

The money that the club raised will be matched by the University of Victoria by up to $25,000. The funds will go towards two scholarships, both available to students who either hold Iranian citizenship or Canadian citizens with Iranian heritage.

Rezvani said that while the vigil was important for the community, they were looking to make a lasting impact in the wake of the tragedy.

“As big and important as it is (the vigil), it happens one night, or maybe even next year, and usually, five years down the road, it's the generation has changed. Only a few people of the past generation would remember it. And I mean, the generation of students that are not graduated."

He said that it was important for the Iranian Student Association to take a long approach in regards to keeping the memory of the victims alive.

"With a scholarship, we all thought that it will be in this school for how many years," said Rezvani. "And no matter if the generation changes or not, no matter how many years down the road, with this scholarship being there, it would be an incentive for students to go back and do research or ask from their friends, their parents that what happened that year and kind of wherever you want to remember the valuable member that we that we lost at UVic, which and also all of the other others that we lost on the plane crash, no matter Iranian, Canadian, or any nationality, everyone."