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Huron Student and Refugee Activist Nhial Deng Receives Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award

Mar 28 2023

LONDON, ON – Huron University is proud to announce that current second-year international student Nhial Deng received the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award in London over the weekend in a ceremony at the Civic Garden Complex. The event was hosted by Arielle Kayabaga, MP for London West.

Nhial was recognized for his community work and activism in London and beyond, focused on spreading awareness about the plight of refugees around the world. As a former South Sudanese refugee in Kenya, Nhial has in-depth knowledge and experience about the real-life struggles of refugees, and in particular, the lack of access to education and employment opportunities.

The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Award commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second to the Throne as Queen of Canada.

MP Kayabaga, who presented the award to Nhial, praised him for the important work he is doing.

“It was an honour to present Nhial Deng, a young refugee from South Sudan, with the Platinum Jubilee Award for his outstanding involvement in our London community, and the advocacy he does on an international level," said Kayabaga. "I am impressed by Nhial’s tenacity, compassion, and energy for other people. He is deserving of recognition for his service to our community and beyond.”

MP Arielle Kayabaga presenting the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award to Huron Student Nhial Deng at a ceremony at the Civic Garden Complex on Saturday, March 25.

Nhial has been very active on the global stage sharing his story and advocating for change. He was recently awarded the World Vision Hero for Children: Courage Award, he addressed the U.N. General Assembly about the challenges he faced growing up in a refugee camp and has been quoted in multiple publications around the world.

Nhial sees this award as an important reminder that people from any background can make important contributions to their communities.

“This award is very special to me. As an international student without longstanding ties to this community, it shows that everyone has a role to play in contributing to the community they find themselves in. It also proves that when refugees arrive in a community with very little, they bring value in so many different ways. I grew up in a refugee camp and I had a very difficult childhood, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about what I can do for my community.”

When informed that he was selected for the award, Nhial was told that he could only bring one guest. For Nhial, it was an easy choice – he invited Dr. Barry Craig, Huron’s President and Vice-Chancellor. Craig, who first met Nhial on a surprise call in May 2021 to inform Nhial that he received a scholarship to attend Huron University, always believed that Nhial would accomplish great things.

“In the two years since he arrived at Huron in September 2021, Nhial has been a tireless advocate for refugees and displaced people, speaking at conferences around the globe, from Africa to Geneva to the U.K. and the United Nations in New York," said Dr. Craig. "He has also been an important member of social justice initiatives in London and is a brand ambassador at Huron University. I am so proud of Nhial for winning this award, and I feel privileged to be part of his journey.”

While Nhial believes his work has only just begun, he is thankful for the foundation that Huron has provided him in achieving his goals.

“When I think about Huron’s mission to develop Leaders with Heart - it gives me the motivation to ask myself everyday: how can I lead in my community with empathy and in a way that benefits those around me. It must start from within – for the last two years, since I started at Huron, that has been something that is a part of me, a part of my thought process. It’s helped inform how I approach my work, in terms of advocacy, knocking on doors, and reaching out to policymakers. I’m inspired everyday to move forward with my agenda, regardless of the challenges I face. It gives me the energy to keep moving forward!”