Keeping the Fire Burning continued...
The alumni from the three countries shared their experiences through videos shown during the 90-minute meeting. There were some song and entertainment numbers and audio slideshow presentations, which delighted the attendees. The host university also presented updates about partner communities which have been heavily affected by the lockdown.
“It is really heartwarming to be part of this (reunion), as you relive your memories with the friends you made, reconnecting your ties, and returning to the communities where you left your hearts,” said Dr. Wilfred U. Tiu, president of TUA. “The memories that some of you shared are meaningful, including how this Service-Learning experience become an important part of your life. We pray that the program will continue once the COVID situation has improved, and everyone is vaccinated.”
With more than 860,000 cases of COVID-19 as of this writing, Manila has the longest and one of the strictest lockdowns in the world. These community quarantines negatively impacted the Philippine economy as thousands of businesses closed and an estimated 4.5 million Filipinos became unemployed, leaving many families in extreme poverty and hunger.
This was reflected in the videos sent by residents of TUA partner communities for the virtual alumni homecoming. The challenges in internet connectivity prevented them from joining the virtual reunion live so they sent videos instead.
“The pandemic made it very difficult for us to work. Thankfully, there are some people and organizations who are helping, like Trinity University of Asia,” said one of the mothers from Tatalon, a venue of CUAC-Asia international Service-Learning Program. Nanay (mother) Letty, one of the more prominent residents of Barangay Santo Domingo, another partner community, laments on how senior citizens like her are prevented from leaving their house. “God bless us, we were spared from the dreaded disease, but I felt sad that we can’t go out anymore. On the brighter side, the lockdown gave me the chance to have more time with my (grownup) children,” she said.
Nanay Lyn, also from Santo Domingo, shared how hard their life is now that her husband lost his job because of the pandemic. “To be honest, I am struggling financially. We find it hard to meet the needs of my family, but I keep on praying that God will help me find a solution to our problems.”
Residents of Araneta 630, another partner community, also spoke of their struggles in keeping their children educated. When the government declared lockdown in March 2020, face-to-face classes were suspended and alternative modalities were implemented, such as online learning and printed modules for home study. These were proven to be challenging to young learners as they struggle to focus in studying amid the situation, coupled with problems such as poor internet connectivity.
Part of the discussion in the virtual reunion was how to continue the program during the
pandemic. With COVID-19 vaccination rolling out in different parts of the world, the organizers are optimistic that the Service-Learning Program will resume next year or in 2023. With the positive impacts it had on its alumni and partner communities, member universities are looking forward to its resumption.
“The (CUAC) Service-Learning program is unique and highly regarded around the world…
The students of Rikkyo University had a wonderful experience and learned a lot,” said the Rt Revd Dr Renta Nishihara, the recently elected president of Rikkyo, who promised to visit the program in Manila when it resumes.
Herbert Donovan, CUAC-Asia President, and members of the organizing team in Manila are also exploring the possibility of holding the Service-Learning program in a hybrid mode – that is, students from South Korea and Japan rendering services remotely from their countries through the internet, while their counterparts in the Philippines are facilitating activities with the partner communities physically. They also discussed the possibility of joint research among different participating universities in three countries in the near future. With the success of the first virtual alumni homecoming last January, organizers are planning to hold a similar activity next year to accommodate those who were not able to join.