The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday September 28th

Uniting Through Compassion

As a child in Monrovia, Liberia, Panjabi witnessed the devastation of the West African nation's civil war in 1990. He was 10 years old.

Panjabi's family decided that his mother should flee the hazardous conditions with him and his sister. Their first destination was neighboring country Sierra Leone, but the three eventually immigrated to the United States.

Panjabi's father stayed behind, separating the family for more than three months.

This trying experience encouraged Panjabi to live a life of service. "The heart behind everything I do comes from there," he said.

Panjabi said the most important thing his life has taught him is that compassion is the best medicine for suffering.

So after Tuesday's terrorist attacks, Panjabi was quick to embrace both his immediate family and his extended, UNC family. "The University and community should think of this situation as one to unify us," he said. "This is a time to share with each other, to be each other's brothers and sisters."

And Panjabi is dedicated to this unification.

As co-president of the Campus Y, Panjabi was involved in the meeting of the minds of University student leaders on Tuesday evening. He addressed nearly 10,000 people at Wednesday's gathering in Polk Place. Later that evening he and other Campus Y leaders held the candlelight vigil in the Pit.

In the coming weeks, Students for the Advancement of Race Relations, a campus Y subgroup, in conjunction with Masala will host a discussion titled "Hate: A divisive or constructive force?" Panjabi also wants to see another meeting of student leaders happen so that support efforts for mourning students is continuous.

During his three years at UNC, Panjabi's community service has been nonstop.

The chemistry major has initiated several service projects with Campus Y, one of which was Entering America Smoothly through Enrichment to help immigrant youth avoid the awkwardness he experienced as an adolescent.

Panjabi also maintains a connection with his heritage through participation in Sangam, UNC's Southeast Asia student association.

Virginia Carson, director of the Campus Y, has worked with Panjabi throughout his career at UNC. "Raj has exceptional leadership abilities," Carson said. "He is both responsible and creative."

Panjabi uses time away from Chapel Hill to continue his education and to increase his capacity for compassion.

After his freshman year, Panjabi participated in SummerBridge, an enrichment program for middle school students that puts them in classrooms with college-aged instructors.

During his sophomore summer, Panjabi volunteered for Stand Up for Kids in California and helped counsel and feed about 25 homeless teenagers a day for eight weeks.

Last summer, as a Burch Fellow, Panjabi spent his vacation in the Alaskan bush learning about the unique health care system the state has in place to aid its 240 native villages. "I gained an amazing amount of clinical experience." he said. "I also spent time just learning about the culture."

Panjabi plans to use the knowledge he gained to one day help implement a similar system in Liberia.

He took the lessons from his childhood and applied them to his life of service. He took Tuesday's attack and used it to help unite the University with compassion. And some day, Panjabi wants to complete the process in Africa.

He said, "Something we should take with us is a commitment to service."

The Features Desk can be reached at features@unc.edu.

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