TLC students bring lessons home
By Adela Talbot
March 14, 2013
Through various clubs, programs and initiatives, Western students have left - and continue to leave - their mark, often traveling to developing countries to learn and lend a hand.
This year, 18 students participated in a new campus initiative, Travel, Learn, Contribute (TLC), visiting the Dominican Republic during Reading Week where they worked to improve one village school while also giving their time and efforts to a variety of local causes.
“You never know when you’ll be called upon. It’s amazing how much we accomplished in a week,” said Michele Parkin, director of faculty relations at Western, who helped get TLC off the ground.
The program, similar to Alternative Spring Break, emerged out of Rotaract Western, a campus club associated with Rotary International. Because student clubs under the University Students’ Council can no longer participate in international travel due to liability risks, Parkin leaned on her connections with the Rotary Club of London to establish TLC as another opportunity for students wanting to contribute abroad.
In preparation for the trip, the students raised funds on their own, Parkin said, adding the money allowed them to build an additional classroom in a school located in a village near Puerto Plata.
“The room enabled (locals) to send their kids to school to Grade 8. As it is now, they can go to Grade 5,” she said.
But that wasn’t all. The students also worked on repairs and renovations to two other rooms on the school property, building a cistern to support a bathroom facility, and adding an office and kitchen area to the school as well.
“In the Dominican Republic, some people won’t send their kids to school just for education. They will send them if they think the kids will get a hot meal, so it was important to build a kitchen,” Parkin added.
The students also worked in a local medical clinic that saw roughly 170 people come in a span of three hours. The group took more than one and a half tons of donations with them, among them medical supplies, sewing machines and sports equipment.
Immensely proud watching the students help, engage and build relationships, Parkin was particularly touched when the group raised $600 to pay for medication needed to help a premature baby, weighing less than three pounds, get off a ventilator.
“You always wonder about the future of the world. For me, as a leader of this group of students, to spend time with students who help others and care, it gives me comfort that our future is in good hands,” she added.
The students, on the other hand, are eager to note the humbling experience they had in the Dominican Republic last month.
“It was nice to just realize there are bigger things in the world than your own issues. And you realize how much you can do in a day and in a week. We were always busy (on the trip) and you realize you don’t have time to waste. I don’t want to do that anymore,” said Judy Man, a second-year Sociology student who took part in the trip.
Seeing the bonds in the community was something Engineering student Reem Tabbara won’t forget.
“Here, we have everything and we take it for granted. They have no money, healthcare but if you just have your family and nothing else, that’s more than enough. It made me realize how much I love my family and how much this bond means,” she said.
Sabdanaa Jeyakumaran, another student on the trip, agreed.
“They have nothing, but they’re so optimistic. The kids offered to share their lunches at the school even though they have barely anything. They made us think twice about what we do and what we have.”
Parkin noted TLC’s connections with Rotary International will provide students with experiences that might otherwise not be accessible. She hopes to build on this year’s success and provide students with more opportunities to learn and contribute across the globe.
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