Bristol students try to make sense of the tsunami

 The City of Bristol College held a conference called After the Tsunami which aimed to show young people how the subjects they learn at school or college relate to events that occur in the wider world. Students from St Brendan's Catholic College in Brislington and other schools attended the conference which received input from Tony Vassallo the Clifton Diocese Manager for CAFOD. Targeted at young people aged 15 to 19, around 100 students from across the city attend the day-long event at the College Green Centre. The conference's main theme was development and the day sought to broaden awareness of third world development issues that were created following the tsunami. Tony Vassallo was one of the three speakers to make presentations. He said: "The generosity of the public to the Asian tsunami disaster shows that there is no aid or compassion fatigue. The public led the way in giving money and calling on politicians to respond to the tragedy. We must not forget however, that in Africa there are silent tsunamis happening everyday. The death toll of poverty is truly staggering - more children die of malaria every month than those who died in the tsunami. "It is good therefore, that this conference was held so that the wider poverty that exists in our world today and the structures that create and sustain that poverty are aired." The other speakers were Nick Tasker from the UK Hydrographic Office who talked about monitoring the oceans for advance warning of major events and Jerry Clewett from Health Unlimited, a British non-governmental organisation (NGO). Jerry talked about his organisation's pioneering approach working with local people to help them take control of their own health and well-being. In the afternoon, students took part in a series of workshops, many hosted by representatives from external organisations, which examined how different elements of the curriculum relate to the tsunami. Felix Grant lectures in humanities at the College and helped organise the conference. Explaining how the concept evolved, he said: "Following the tsunami many of our students took part in fundraising initiatives. However, the feeling throughout the college, among students and lecturers, was one of questions being left unanswered. "By holding this event, not only are we helping to answer these questions, we are also making learning more relevant to young people by linking it to real life situations." He added, "Of course, with recent events in Asia and America, the impact of major natural disasters is made all the more real, making this conference particularly timely." Concluded Felix: "We are indebted to the many external organisations who are working with us to make this conference a reality. Teachers and students from schools across Bristol and South Gloucestershire were at the conference. It is hoped that the teachers will pass on their experiences to their pupils when they return to their classes."

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