Disaster Relief Bursary

Help students affected by natural disasters continue their studies

Your support for UAlberta students affected by the Fort McMurray fire will help get them back on their feet—and back to class.

Photo Credit: Terry Reith / CBC News

Project Overview

The incomprehensible destruction caused by the Fort McMurray fire of May 2016 left people across Canada—and the world—in disbelief. 

Around five hundred current and prospective University of Alberta students were affected. The university is responding by introducing the Disaster Relief Bursary. The bursary:

  • Is based on financial need due to loss or unforeseeable costs related to a natural disaster, such as the Northern Alberta fires.
  • Provides additional financial support in conjunction with other established bursary programs at the University of Alberta.

Your support for this bursary will help students plan their future and rejoin their classmates.   

Ripped from his Home

Things were going well for Imad Bazzi. The 20-year-old had just finished his second year of civil engineering at UAlberta and returned home to Fort McMurray to start a co-op placement. For eight months, he’d be working with the local municipality, planning transportation upgrades. He’d be close to his parents, brother and sister, too.

But on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, Bazzi’s second day of work, things changed fast. Around noon, flames jumped the Athabasca River, then quickly tore into neighbourhoods. With no time to spare, Bazzi got into his car—his dress shirt dripping with sweat from the unseasonable heat and broken AC—filled up with gas, bought some bottled water and food, then searched for his brother, sister and mother.

Along with almost 90,000 other people—the largest evacuation in Alberta’s history—the family left with little more than the clothes on their backs. After a bumper-to-bumper drive north, they stayed in a camp for evacuees. The next day, they headed south to Edmonton. On the way, Bazzi stopped at a police barricade and appealed to an officer to drive him to the street where he lived. When they arrived at their home, all he saw were water pipes and the legs of some lawn furniture.

“All the houses were gone,” Bazzi said. “The officer was, like, ‘Is this where you live?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, man.’ ”

As the family drove south, his sister and mother sobbing in the backseat, it dawned on Bazzi what he’d lost: a laptop with all his school files; quite possibly the family cat, Oliver; and $5,000 cash he was saving to pay student debt.

“This disaster, I wouldn’t want this to be a reason I don’t go back to school.”

Bazzi is one of around 500 current and prospective UAlberta students from Fort McMurray who now face uncertain futures. Like Bazzi, some may have lost jobs to help pay tuition and living expenses. Others need textbooks and school supplies. 

You can help. Give to the University of Alberta Disaster Relief Bursary and help students get their studies back on track.

The Impact of Your Donation

Thousands of victims of the fires in Fort McMurray and Northern Alberta face a long recovery, financial expense and stress as they rebuild from the disaster. Donations to the University of Alberta Disaster Relief Bursary will help students who have suffered losses from the fire to resume their studies and rejoin their classmates.

How to Help

The fires of 2016 have become one of the costliest disasters in Canadian history. The care and concern people have shown evacuees demonstrates the power of generosity. Disaster relief right now is mostly focused on the immediate needs of evacuees. The University of Alberta Disaster Relief Bursary presents another way to help, giving students a way to look beyond the fires to a bright and happy future.

Help Carry the Weight

Your gift can ease the burden for a student who has suffered a significant setback in the face of natural disaster.


UAlberta engineering student Imad Bazzi talks about the evacuation from Fort McMurray—and the long road back 

4 mins 53 secs

Student Inquiries

To learn more about receiving a bursary, please visit the Student Connect Centre

Administration Building
University of Alberta

Phone: 780-492-3113
Toll-Free: 1-855-492-3113

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