Riaz talks to students about helping people in need.

Not many of us would be able to forget the event of June 26, when a Madras Transport Corporation bus travelling from Broadway to Vadapalani fell of the Gemini flyover. Neither would we forget the young man who emerged a hero among us for helping the injured through the three-hour ordeal during which they were trapped inside the bus. To honour the humanitarianism that Riaz Mohammad showed on the fatal day, the Loyola College’s Department of Outreach organised a felicitation programme recently. They invited Riaz to address the second year under-graduate students about the importance of outreach and helping others in need.

The college also gave a cash award to Riaz, who unwillingly accepted it. He spoke to the students about witnessing the accident and how he asked the passenger travelling in his auto to make alternate arrangement as he wanted to stay back and help the injured. He immediately dialled 108 and then started transporting the injured to the hospital.

Taking about his past experience, Riaz said he hails from Mutupattai in Thiruvatiyor district. When the tsunami stuck the eastern coast of Chennai in December 2004, he along with his friend had travelled to Nagapatinam, some 50 km from his village, to help people. He saw the worst side of human nature upon reaching the place. Instead of helping out, people were collecting valuable from the dead bodies. The incident affected him deeply and he decided to help people who are in need.

With roaring applause from students, Riaz continued about humanitarian service. Encouraging students to take their outreach programme seriously, he said that every good deed one does is a service to another. “On the day of the bus accident, I wanted to rescue people. I did not care about race, colour, caste, or their religion. I saw them as fellow humans and so should you.”

The function coincided with the inauguration-cum-orientation of the Department of Outreach. The college’s outreach programme targets the slums in the city. While today’s education system focus only on enriching the mind, the outreach programme aims to season the heart so that students immediately react to injustice.

Being a compulsory course, the students have to finish the programme to get their degree certificates. The students are divided into six teams working in 23 slums – school-teaching team; balwadi team; women-empowerment team; youth team; health, sanitation and environment team; and elder’s and disabled people’s team. The course is compulsory for post-graduate students as well.

They have to spend one week in a village and conduct awareness programmes in slums. The college see outreach programme as part of the curriculum and not as an extra-curricular activity. The principal, Reverend Dr. B. Jayaraj, says the programme is about teaching values to students along with imparting knowledge.

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