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Salesian College students shine at the International Service-Learning in Philippines

By Ramachand Shimray
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Kolkata, Jul. 18. Four students from Salesian College Sonada participated in the International Conference and Service-Learning (ISL) programme under the theme ''Disaster Response, Community Resilience, and the Role of the University'' from 28th June to 11th July 2014 in Iloilo City, Philippines.  The student representatives of Salesian College were Vikash Gupta, Naresh Agarwal, Snom Panlook and Ramachand Shimray. They were accompanied by Salesian Fr. Ujjol Mondol.  Shimray shared the following account of their experience with BIS:
November 2013 was the month that smashed the life of Philippines with the strongest storm ever recorded in that country. What struck them was internationally known as ''Typhoon Haiyan'' and locally  as ''Typhoon Yolanda''. Eight months after Yolanda, this disaster is out of the international news, but Philippines is still reeling under its effects. The worst destruction was in Eastern Visayas. Tacloban in Leyte province was the epicenter of the typhoon. This monster storm had blown apart not merely the buildings, but more importantly families and communities.  Recovery has been slow, but well initiated.

As a response to the natural disaster ''United Board for the Christian Higher Education in Asia'' (UBCHEA) co-sponsored the International Service-Learning (ISL) programe this year under the theme ''Disaster Response, Community Resilience, and the Role of the University''. The ISL was hosted from 28th June to 11th July 2014 at the Central Philippines University and by the University in Western Visayas.

Two hundred students from 29 Asian Universities and colleges participated in the ISL 2014.  The 29 Universities and colleges from where these students came were from China, Hongkon, Indonesia, Korea, Macau, Myanmar, Taiwan, Philippines and India. The Indian colleges were : The American College (Madurai), Christ University (Bangalore), Salesian College (Sonada), and Stella Maris College (Chennai).

The first two days were Conference days on the ''Typhoon Haiyan'' and the remaining days were Reach-out days to the different communities which were affected by the typhoon.  The students and staff were divided into teams area-wise, and each team did a different work. Mostly they reconstructed the buildings that were torn apart.  They re-built schools, Planted mangrove trees, facilitated medical check up for the affected communities, helped in cloth handicraft making, and even constructed a boat for fishing.

Dr. Glenn Shive, Vice President UB gave a warm welcome to the students after the long days of service to communities. There was a lot of competitive spirit among the participants. Each of the teams and universities were almost competing with each other to serve the communities. We are proud to say that our Salesian College, was declared one of the best teams of the ISL.

Personally it was wonderful experience of service for all of us.  We also learned to adjust to the different communities there. We learned the things that were not written in any books. One attitude that stood out most as we worked as a team was that ''No one is a foreigner. Everyone is my brother or sister''.

There will be more Yolandas in the future, and may be more Typhoons. But as one ISL team leader said, ''We need each other's hand to help each other, because no one is alone''... We departed with tears in our eyes - tears of joy, love and sweet memories!


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