Three women and 3 men standing in front of UNHCR Canada banners

Signing ceremony with (from left to right) Rema Jamous-Imseis, Representative in Canada, UNHCR; Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Nimi Nanji-Simard, Director, Nanji Family Foundation; Dominique Hyde, Director of Division of External Relations, UNHCR; Pyarali Nanji, President, Nanji Family Foundation; and Alex Tom, Head of Private Sector Partnerships in Canada, UNHCR.
© UNHCR/Valerie Agawin

Nanji Family Foundation commemorates 50th anniversary of South Asian exile from Uganda by providing over 50 young refugees with tertiary scholarships through UNHCR’s Aiming Higher campaign.

TORONTO – The Nanji Family Foundation is granting funds to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, for tertiary education scholarships in support of its Aiming Higher campaign. This generous financial contribution will help provide sorely needed financial support to refugees pursuing higher education by funding scholarships for health-related university studies in their countries of asylum.

Launched in December 2020 to coincide with UNHCR’s 70th anniversary, Aiming Higher strives to widen access to secondary and higher education for refugees, a goal and vision which lies at the heart of both the Global Compact for Refugees and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In 1972, Pyarali Nanji, his wife, Gulshan, and their four children were among thousands exiled from Uganda. Stripped of their citizenship and assets, they were declared stateless. The family found sanctuary in Canada, first arriving in Montreal and later settling in Toronto.

The Nanji family has remained steadfastly determined and committed to giving back generously to the country that welcomed them, making a point to give equal support to causes both within Canada and internationally. As such, the Aiming Higher campaign serves to fulfill a long-held aspiration on behalf of the foundation to help support the advancement and empowerment of refugees through the pursuit of higher learning.

The hope is that this gift will encourage others to similarly support opportunities for young people facing forced displacement. There is a life cycle to the experience of giving back as a former refugee. First, you give back to your community, then to your country and ultimately globally – because that too is family. When possible, people give in stages and their ability expands over time.

Aiming Higher is seeking private sector support to bridge the funding gap of UNHCR’s refugee tertiary scholarship program (DAFI) and help expand opportunities. The program offers qualified refugee and returnee students the possibility of earning an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum, or home country.

“In my life I have learned something, that if God gives you opportunity, try to share it. First of all, you have to make sure that you are taking care of your family, your community, and then the whole country. So, I thought we have to pay back to the country, and the world… and for more than 20 years we have been doing this.”  – Mr. Nanji

“It is beautiful what you said about giving back, and even more so, giving opportunity… You can be assured that we will spend it well, this donation. We will spend it to give people opportunities. And maybe in life there is a chain, that people suffer and go through exile and deprivation, and then if they have opportunities, they can give back. And the cycle continues if everybody does what you did.” – Mr. Grandi

With this grant of scholarships to over 50 young refugees in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of South Asian exile from Uganda, the Nanji family is hopeful that others in the community and beyond will feel inspired to support higher education for refugees. For more information, please visit https:/

Pyarali Nanji and Filippo Grandi signing grant agreement

Pyarali Nanji of the Nanji Family Foundation and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees sign the grant agreement in support of Aiming Higher.
© UNHCR/Valerie Agawin

Background information

The DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship program offers qualified refugee and returnee students the possibility to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum or home country. Through the dedicated support of the governments of Germany, Denmark and the Czech Republic, as well as UNHCR and private donors, the program has supported over 18,500 young refugees to undertake tertiary studies since 1992.


About UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

Established in 1950, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the world’s leading organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. On the ground in more than 130 countries, UNHCR works to ensure everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home. To learn more, please visit

For more information, interview requests, and multimedia assets, please contact:
Levon Sevunts, Communications officer, Tel: +1-613-286-6975.

Pin It on Pinterest