The IV Uniservitate Global Symposium held in Manila (Philippines) on 8th and 9th November brought to light the transformative power of service-learning pedagogy and received the recognition of His Holiness Pope Francis.
In a surprising message, the Pope thanked the Symposium organisation. He also praised service-learning, which he described as “an integral approach to education” that “calls for creative interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary methods to assist young people to be leaders and protagonists in building a better future for society as a whole”.
Jimi Caldea, Regional Coordinator Asia&Oceanía Hub, from De La Salle University
Jimi Caldea from De La Salle University (DLSU), the host institution, worked the hardest to prepare the Symposium; he said that Francis’ words reflected the collective effort and dedication of all those involved in service-learning. “We thank the Holy Father for his unflagging faith in us, which inspires and moves us to continue our work with even more passion and commitment”.
The Pope’s words closed the second day centred on community partnerships and spiritual reflection as service-learning tools for social change, while the first day dedicated to the transformative power of service-learning and the role of students.
In addition to His Holiness’ message, in representation of the Vatican, Antonella Sciarrone Alibrandi, the Under-Secretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, sent a video greeting the audience. She confirmed the Dicastery’s support to Uniservitate and stressed that —considering service as a learning component— this programme represents a valuable “innovative idea” in today’s education scenario.
Nieves Tapia, Founder and Director of CLAYSS, also sent a recorded greeting with special thanks to all those who made the symposium possible. In turn, Maria Rosa Tapia, General Coordinator of the Uniservitate programme, reflected deeply on the experiences favouring sustainable social change and its link with spirituality.
Lasallian Brother Michael Valenzuela and Dr. Mercy Pushpalatha during their presentations in the panel Transformative Service-Learning: Cultivating Spiritual Reflection for Social Change
Indeed, another of the highlights of this Symposium was spirituality as a concrete experience during the sessions and as a research and service-learning initiative theme. For example, Lasallian Brother Michael Valenzuela underlined that the transformative power of service-learning “involves seeking God’s gifts even in places of pain or destruction” since only the Christian perspective can give a transformative meaning to pain.
The event brought together 480 people from 30 countries on five continents: 333 participated via streaming, and 147 attended in person. Most of the attendants were representatives from universities in Asia and Oceania. However, some participants were from Latin America, travelling up to thirty hours to enjoy the face-to-face interaction —and they were not disappointed.
The event brought together students, researchers, professors and community partners, a total of 480 people from 30 countries on five continents
“We have lived very intense days and experienced a close fraternity among and a generous hospitality extended by De La Salle University. That is not always the case, so this fraternity and hospitality are reasons to thank God. Paraphrasing St. Paul, I would say that we can write the best papers or give the best lessons, but if we don’t have love, we are nothing,” shared Andrés Peregalli, vice-coordinator of Uniservitate. He was grateful for what, in his opinion, was a holistic experience and a quality global academic event.
From India, Mercy Pushpalatha Madurai, a member of the Uniservitate Board, highlighted the face-to-face meetings and praised the Symposium organisation. She added that she was impressed by “the impact of service-learning” on the lives of individuals and institutions. In particular, she highlighted the accounts of two young people, Thomas Nyawir from Kenya and Ann Chen from Taiwan. “There we could understand how service-learning was a revolution to their lives’ mission, its impact on their stories and what they are doing now,” she said. She explained that the effect of learning “is a cascading effect because the change produced in one student pours into the community.
Studens from Fu Jen Catholic University with Jimi Caldea, María Rosa Tapia and Andrés Peregalli
It is possible to find the presentations of these young people, the dissertations and panels on Uniservitate’s Youtube channel; the e-posters of the papers are available on the Uniservitate website.
In total, there were 65 extended abstracts previously reviewed by a scientific committee of more than 30 people through a blind peer review process.
These were sessions in which, as suggested by Brother Bernard Oca, President of DLSU, everyone sought to “learn from each other”. There was also an attempt to follow the suggestion made at the opening by Richard Brosse of Porticus: to explore with courage and curiosity the “uncomfortable mission” that service-learning has in this moment of multidimensional changing times that humanity is going through.
Fritzie Ian DeVera, Vice President of DLSU’s Lasallian Mission and Brother Bernard Oca, President of DLSU during the panels presentations
We also listened to the “voices of young people” through videos produced by the Uniservitate regional hubs: “We share the good news that there are many students who are already committed to service-learning and making a difference in their communities,” said Maria Rosa Tapia.
Given the different time zones in every region of the world, the organisation of the Symposium entailed careful scheduling. There were four months of meetings, sometimes at 8 am in Argentina and 7 pm in the Philippines, between the Clayss-Uniservitate communication teams and the DLSU teams, as well as between the members of the host committee and the academic sounding board. Everyone contributed hands, heart and head to the event with generosity and commitment.
Fritzie Ian DeVera, Vice President of DLSU’s Lasallian Mission and leader of the Symposium organisation, commented that she believes Uniservitate “is an instrument of Peace” that keeps inspiring even amid war. She added that she still believes in the service-learning integration into higher education through its institutionalisation and concluded: “It will be like the guiding light that will bring peace, hope and healing”.