HOF122: Micheline Lévesque
Micheline (Mika) Lévesque was traveling in South-east Asia when a friend informed her of the possibility of teaching the French language in refugee camps in Thailand. She visited the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok to express her interest in applying for a job.
She became aware of the existence of the “École du Québec” in the Phanat Nikhom camp near Bangkok. Immigration Québec funded the school in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). At first, she accepted a 3-month contract. Eventually, she stayed in the school for five years, from 1982 to 1987.
The camp was like a village with the many refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam who were living there. Many of the Vietnamese refugees were former soldiers who had fled their country in the hope of starting a new life.
As Director of the school, she hired Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese to teach French to their fellow citizens. All those who took the courses obtained asylum in Québec through Immigration Québec agents.
During her 5-year contract with the school, Mika worked closely and developed friendships with officials from Immigration Québec as well as with teachers from other international schools offering educational experiences to the refugees in the camp. In addition, she has also developed close relationships with many refugees. Over time, she was able to gain the trust of many who opened their hearts to her and shared the frightening stories of their flight from their war-torn countries. To this day, she has fond memories of her experiences with the refugees she helped in South-east Asia.