Flávio Raphael was studying for his midterms earlier this year when he was hit with the devastating news that his two-year-old nephew, Yuri César, passed away in a tragic playground accident.
“I was lost and I didn’t know what to do,” says Flávio, a native of São Paulo, who along with his fiancée Talita, immigrated to Winnipeg in 2017 so he could study Business Administration at Red River College.
“I sent an email to the (Business Administration program) chair and all of my instructors and told them what happened. Then, I bought a last-minute ticket to Brazil.”
With some assurance from RRC’s administrative staff, Flávio was able to attend his nephew’s funeral without the stress of his midterms hanging over his head. He was able to focus on being in the moment to support his family in a time of need. He went on to graduate from the program with honours this past April, but he and his family remained broken after experiencing such an inexplicable loss.
Flávio knew there was nothing he could do to bring Yuri back — instead, he began thinking of the best ways to cherish the vibrant young boy’s memory. If earning six scholarships towards his own RRC education had taught him anything, it was the impact that charity can have on an international student’s experience.
So he decided to create a new memorial award in Yuri’s honour.
“To be able to graduate with honours here, I believe was something great. But the greatest achievement in my life so far is this scholarship now” says Flávio.
What especially motivated Raphael to give back was the Peter Nykoluk Memorial Award he received last year. The $1,000 bursary was created by the late Business Administration student’s family to recognize individuals whose outstanding contribution and/or achievements in the community. Flávio was also inspired to give back after working as a volunteer at Winnipeg Harvest and befriending Winnipeg mom Toni deLaroque, who founded a charity called Danica’s Village after her daughter passed away.
“Winnipeg embraced me and my fiancée,” Flávio says. “We feel lucky and grateful to be here. If I can do something beautiful to help the community while honouring the name of my nephew, I would be so delighted.”
The Yuri César Memorial Award for Business Administration International students will assist those entering their second year of the program at RRC. Candidates should be inspired to achieve success in their education and to proudly embrace Canada as their new home, and Red River College their community.
They must have a dependent in Canada and must have achieved a high academic standing. Applications — including a statement outlining their family and financial situation — are due Jan. 15.
Sharing that he had created a scholarship in Yuri’s name with his family was a small moment of humbleness for Flávio.
“I told my sister, her name is Luysa, that she could choose the name of the award, she got very emotional. It’s been really hard for her and my mother, but when I told her about everything (the scholarship), she was somehow happy to know her son would be honoured in Canada.”
Flávio stays in close contact with his family — especially his parents, four brothers and one sister — in Brazil, but he and his wife have recently started the process to become Canadian permanent residents.
Shortly after he graduated from RRC in April, Flávio landed a logistics job at Mid-West Quilting in Winnipeg as Shipping and Inventory Coordinator, and he’s been working there since (having previously worked as a professor of logistics, marketing and business in Brazil). His ultimate career goal is to land a job in marketing to gain more experience in the field — or perhaps a gig as a RCMP officer in a few years.
The latter is a long-term goal, Flávio says, but he sees it as another way to give back.
“Maybe somehow, someday I’ll be able to support the community that supported me when I needed.”
Profile by Lindsey Ward (Creative Communications 2004)