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International student praised for
Inspired by world peacemakers, Anand Shunmugavel wanted to serve
humanity, but he was not sure where to start in Charleston.
A native of Bodi, India, Shunmugavel told The Catalyst’s Meet column in
2006 that his idea of a perfect vacation was performing mission
outreach, and that his favorite personality trait in others is
altruism. Since then, Shunmugavel’s search for serving mankind has
turned into a weekend mission helping victims of rape and collecting
information to use in rape prevention.
left, and Adnan Al-Ayoubi would like to see more international students
volunteering in the community.
Shunmugavel was introduced to People Against Rape (PAR) last summer
when he learned how great the need was for committed people who also
are able to help people during extraordinarily challenging times.
Gentle and steady, Shunmugavel now spends many of his weekends, between
a full-time schedule as a fifth-year neuroscience student at MUSC, and
as a PAR volunteer.
To date, the former cardiology researcher has donated several hundred
hours of service on the phone and in the hospital emergency rooms
rescuing people devastated, physically and emotionally by rape. These
victims include children, women, the elderly and even men—and
Shunmugavel not only is a part of the round-the-clock PAR support
system, he is the only active male member of this 34-year-old
Tri-county-based volunteer group.
PAR praised Shunmugavel for “his compassion and constant dedication” to
the victims of rape in its February newsletter.
“Anand has been a volunteer for PAR since July 2007, and since then he
has been on call for over 300 hours,” wrote Tiffany Minaudo, volunteer
coordinator for PAR. “Anand is the first volunteer to sign up to be on
call each month and he is always willing to be on shift during Friday
and Saturday, which can be our busiest nights at PAR.”
Weekends normally are the week’s busiest days for PAR, because
interventions normally follow heavy drinking nights that unfortunately
results in alleged assaults and police involvement, Shunmugavel said.
A rape crisis volunteer can have one of the toughest humanitarian jobs,
and nothing particular in Shunmugavel’s experience led him to help rape
“I love serving people, as service to humanity is the best work of
life, and when I was looking for a way to give back to the community,
Susan Brooks (former International Student Programs director) was
behind my motivation to become a community volunteer,” said Shunmugavel.
Shunmugavel said he also has been persuaded by the philosophies of
Mahatma Ghandi, the legendary political and spiritual leader of early
20th century India. Ghandi’s philosophy of non-violent resistance is
credited with leading India to independence and inspiring expansion of
civil rights and freedom throughout the world.
Through PAR, Shunmugavel is helping to free people of fear and pain
inflicted through a particularly insidious assault.
As one of about 30 volunteers, Shunmugavel gets calls from PAR, which
is notified by the police, alerting him to a new rape victim needing
“We get a call telling us of a case,” he said. “We try to talk to them,
support them. Sometimes they are in shock and cannot talk. We also talk
to the person to help gather forensic information, such as what
happened, how it happened and who was the offender.”
Not all calls are prompted by law enforcement. Sometimes, the victim or
loved one of a victim will call PAR directly long after an incident has
“The incident could have been days, weeks or even years ago,”
Shunmugavel said. “What happened once in the life may disturb the
victim emotionally now, when he or she thinks about the trauma that
happened before and gets exhausted and frustrated and needs help. You
see the victim may do anything, for example self injury, in reacting to
the enduring pain. So in such a situation, if they seek a helping hand,
they may get relieved of the pain and come back to normalcy. That is
the kind of help we do. …Of course, it is difficult for them to recover
immediately, and healing takes time. However, timely counseling offered
through PAR helps a lot of people augment the process of healing.”
Meanwhile, Shunmugavel is not only active through PAR, but at MUSC he
has served as president of both the International Student Association
(ISA) and the International Association.
He said PAR always needs help with volunteers who must undergo training
on how to properly deal with rape victims of all ages and
circumstances, and how to obtain information necessary for prevention
For information on PAR, e-mail email@example.com; go to http://www.peopleagainstrape.org/,
or call 754-0144, which also serves as a 24-hour rape crisis hotline.
More international students are being encouraged to become more active
in the community and serve as volunteers—by virtue of student examples
and personal experience, and by the leader of the largest international
student group on campus.
Adnan Al-Ayoubi, president of the International Student Association
(ISA), said he intends to push community volunteerism as part of his
agenda for the coming year.
“I want to see an increase in the number of international students’
involvement in service and community activities,” said Lebanese-born
Ayoubi. “There are not a lot of international students who volunteer,
yet it is a humbling and inspiring experience.”
Adnan has volunteered to help patients and families at MUSC by serving
families at Hope Lodge. He said he would like to see more students
provide similar services and support, which could include participation
in Habitat for Humanity and charity events in the Charleston area.
“It’s very humane, touching the lives directly,” said Ayoubi, a
fifth-year M.D./Ph.D. student hoping to become a heart surgeon. “It
helps bring smiles to the faces, especially to the terminally ill. I
want to really focus on this for the ISA.”
A number of international students perform community services,
including the interns from Claude Bernard University in Lyon who
volunteer in community health clinics, but none of the student
volunteers do so through the ISA and International Association, which
attract about 200 members to their regular meetings. Ayoubi hopes
to inspire change among this group.
“I would like to have the organization push it and have its members
volunteer,” said Ayoubi.
Friday, May 2, 2008
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