TWU graduates bring hope to Afghanistan through humanitarian work

Langley, British Columbia—When Korena Sharma of Port Coquitlam, B.C., enrolled at Trinity Western University, she never imagined she would one day work overseas. But Sharma felt completely at peace this summer as she climbed aboard Iran Air and headed to the unlikely destination of Afghanistan. As a humanitarian worker with Samaritan’s Purse, Sharma will work in southwestern Afghanistan for next six months. And she is among many Trinity Western graduates who have been willing to go to some of the most challenging regions in the world to bring relief and hope.

“The need is great,” shares Sharma, who overseas literacy programs for women in 50 homes and works with a project aimed to teach single or widowed women entrepreneurial skills. “Widows crowd the gate at our warehouse seeking aid, and their faces have aged beyond their years. People who are 30 look at least 50. There has been no education for 20 plus years for women . . . We have our work cut out for us.”

Ryan Snider, a 1995 TWU graduate, recently returned to Canada after working with the Samaritan’s Purse office in Iran and the Samaritan’s Purse Food Distribution Center in Afghanistan.

“Although I’ve had the opportunity to work in over 14 countries already, never have I been to a place that has caused my emotions, feelings and perceptions to sway so dramatically from minute to minute,” says Snider.

Among other responsibilities, Snider was in charge of purchasing food aid in Iran, obtaining permission forms to export it, arranging to have the food aid trucked across the border and then distributing the food to approximately 4,000 people in Samaritan’s Purse’s Afghani camps.

“Despite the poverty, despite the misery and despite the immense injustices you notice immediately upon entering the camps, you cannot escape the incredible love and joy of the Afghani children,” he notes.

Stories from alumni like Sharma and Snider are reports that Mark Charlton, PhD, loves to hear. Charlton, a professor of political science at TWU who coordinates the University’s International Studies Program, continually works to enhance opportunities for students to learn how to make lasting contributions internationally.

This year, he and Hans Boersma, ThD, assistant professor of religious studies at TWU, led Trinity Western’s first travel studies course to Rome and Geneva. There, students visited places like the International Red Cross, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program. Students also met a range of speakers including personnel from the United Nations humanitarian office and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

“This course gave students a first-hand look at how these agencies operate,” says Charlton. “They were impressed by the commitment of these people to address humanitarian issues. But it also gave students a sobering view of the realities of international politics, and of the obstacles these humanitarian workers have to overcome.”

“The students made some good connections with people at these organizations and even gathered information about internships,” he adds. “A number of them found that this course helped them determine that they want to work with an international development organization.”

It was an international experience through TWU that led Sarah Biondolillo to work in Afghanistan where she has been a hospital logistician for the past three months.

“During my senior year at Trinity Western, I did the Latin American Studies Program in Costa Rica and studied international development,” says Biondolillo. “This experience sparked a passion for helping the poor in developing countries.”

After graduating with a business degree in 1998, Biondolillo worked with Youth With A Mission in Hawaii, taught English in a small school in Nepal and later worked on a water filter project in Kenya. She currently obtains supplies for a hospital and clinic in northern Afghanistan and helps to organize finances and the flow of patients.

“This has been the most challenging place I’ve ever lived overseas but also the most rewarding,” she says. “Seeing women being treated for health issues after being denied health care under the Taliban rule is quite amazing. God is definitely at work here.”

And though some students may not have planned to work in a country like Afghanistan, it is a place where these Trinity Western graduates are prepared and at peace to be.

Sharma adds, “I couldn’t ask for more meaningful work if I tried.”

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,000 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2007-09-26