The Cardoner Volunteer Program

(Published in Dumaguete MetroPost)

I will be leaving for Myanmar on Monday to take part in the first deployment of Ateneo de Davao’s Cardoner Volunteer Program.

Named after the river in Manresa, Spain on which Ignatius of Loyola ruminated, the Cardoner Program is AdDU’s attempt to give opportunities for social formation to its graduates. For one year, the school sends alumni and alumnae to deployment areas to teach, sharing their Ateneo education to the community there. The people in these areas are often very marginalized and underprivileged.

For the program’s pioneering year, there are three deployment areas: Lake Sebu Indigenous Women Weaver’s Association (LASIWWAI) in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato; madaris schools in the Bangsamoro area, and Saint Alyosius Gonzaga Institute in Taunggyi, Myanmar.

The volunteers deployed in Bangsamoro are sent in coordination with the Madaris Volunteer Program, another volunteer program run by the Ateneo. This year has one Cardoner volunteer deployed in Madaris: Education major alumna Rowena Santos.

I am one of three volunteers to be deployed to Myanmar. I go with Precious Kyrie Undag, a BSED Education graduate, and Datu Abdullah Uka III, who like me is an AB English alumnus. Dats and Kyrie both graduated in 2015, making me the elder in the group.

In S.A.G. Taunggyi we will be teaching subjects under the school’s Diploma in Education. Myanmar has a peculiar education system: because the country has, only until recently, been under a military junta, only state owned schools can offer higher education. The Diploma is actually offered off shore by the Ateneo de Davao, with which S.A.G., a fellow Jesuit institution, is in consortium.

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From left: Fr Joel Tabora, SJ, AdDU President; me, my fellow Cardoners Kyrie Undag and Datu Uka, and Ms Yi Yi San of SAG Institute in Taunggyi

The three of us to be sent to Myanmar make a relatively balanced team: my specialization is literature, Dats is an experienced grammar and language teacher, and Kyrie is an education major. Dats’ grandfather Lugum Uka was a Sillimanian who served as editor of its literary journal, Sands & Coral, in 1950. Dats himself is also a writer, with a story published in an international literary journal. Kyrie on the other hand has experience in student journalism, but is most accomplished in student leadership. Most importantly she has a strong grounding in professional education courses, which means we will most likely rely on her to improve our teaching.Together we hope to contribute to SAG with more than just teaching.

Ateneo de Davao’s Arrupe office of Social Formation, which runs the Cardoner Program, is still looking for three volunteers to be deployed to Lake Sebu. Volunteers to be deployed there will teach elementary English, Science, and Math subjects to T’boli children. The project is open to graduates and current faculty of the Ateneo de Davao (for interested applicants contact Karl Ebol, the acting Director of the Program, through is planning to further expand the number of deployment areas. Possible places where future volunteers may be deployed include the Jesuit schools for IPs in Bukidnon, and Jesuit institutions in East Timor, Thailand and Cambodia.

Myanmar will be a fascinating new world for me: its fresh democracy is still tender from decades of isolation and military control, and has so many unseen wonders (I am particularly excited for the tea, the food, and the Buddhism). But most excitingly, the Burmese literary tradition, while rich and benefiting from a long history of translation, remains alien to the Filipino reader. I very much intend to facilitate an exchange of literatures.

Volunteerism has always been one of my frustrations: as a student I was never able to participate in the many social involvement activities that Ateneo de Davao organizes. I like helping but I hardly appeared like it (I was always vocally critical of empty charity), and even the best of people can be very prejudiced with first impressions. And yet as a student I was very much a literary activist, doing what I could to make the literary art as accessible to as many potential young writers as possible. Time in Dumaguete had killed that writer-idealist in me, but now the opportunity to volunteer in AdDU finally presents itself.  I am thus very thankful.

The Cardoner is so far one of the few steps I know that a Philippine university has taken to reach out to its alumni. More often than not an individual has almost nothing to do with his/her alma mater after graduation (save for the occasional email from the alumni office about the latest dead alumnus). I think our schools should begin reaching out to their graduates, not only for these graduates’ sake but for the schools’ as well. This is something universities might ponder on.





One Comment on “The Cardoner Volunteer Program”

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