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‘My effort made a difference’

SP student glad about helping residents in typhoon-affected Philippine community

Published on Aug 27, 2012 8:40 PM

This article first appeared in The New Paper on Aug 27, 2012.

As part of her polytechnic studies, she had to dig mud, lug sandbags, lay them out and help residents hit by a typhoon.

But 21-year-old Kohgilavani Selvakumaran of Singapore Polytechnic (SP) did not do these just for the additional qualification.

She is a passionate social worker in the making, who often immerses herself in humanitarian services, and she is happy to work for the less fortunate any time.

One of her “assignments” was to help the residents of a Philippine village, which is still trying to pick up the pieces after being hit by Typhoon Ketsana in 2009.

Said the top student from SP’s Diploma-Plus Certificate Programme in Humanitarian Affairs: “There are natural disasters happening all over the world all the time and I simply want to help.”

That it helps her graduate with an additional qualification is just a bonus.

Miss Kohgilavani spent a third of her six-week semester break last year in the Philippine province of Zambales, helping the villagers rebuild the community which was badly affected by the typhoon.

Joint venture

The programme, offered by SP’s School of Architecture & the Built Environment, is a joint venture with independent aid organisation Mercy Relief.

Developed in 2010 as an optional additional qualification for existing SP students, it aims to provide students with an understanding of the humanitarian aid and relief industry.

Despite it being a non-compulsory programme, SP has observed that students who took up the course agreed that it was beneficial and enlightening.

Miss Kohgilavani, a third-year diploma in tourism & resort management student who will graduate in less than a year, agreed.

“When the (provincial) village chief contacted us to relay his gratitude, it made me feel good, knowing that even my smallest effort made a difference.”

She was part of a group that laid out sandbags which mitigated the effects of a flood that hit the village a few weeks after the students left.

As a member of SP’s Mentoring Club, Miss Kohgilavani regularly visits various primary and secondary schools to provide free tuition to selected academically-weaker students.

Coaching younger students in their schoolwork is something she is familiar with; in secondary school, she was part of an interest group that tutored primary school pupils.

Miss Kohgilavani, together with her friends, was also one of the first few young Singaporeans to volunteer with Mercy Relief during their fund-raising attempts here in aid of the victims of the Japan earthquake in March last year.

When asked about her plans for the future, she said, “I’m looking into a career focusing on social work.

“It’s something I really want to do for a while.”