Four Yalies held court in Ottawa this week to participate in a 24-hour international debate tournament that raised at least $10,000 for post-tsunami relief efforts in Southeast Asia.
The “24 Hour Debate Challenge” ran from Monday to Tuesday, featuring students from nine Canadian colleges and four members of the Yale Debate Association: Adam Chilton ’07, David Denton ’07, Dylan Gadek ’07 and Ariel Schneller ’06. Proceeds from the event will be sent to the international tsunami relief organization, “Waves of Mercy.”
The Yale debaters first found out about the event last weekend at McGill University in Montreal, where they were debating in a regularly scheduled tournament. From there, the four students who agreed to participate drove directly to Ottawa.
These Yale students stayed through several sessions of debate, where they faced some of the toughest competition in Canada and debated under a British Parliamentary style with which they were unfamiliar. When they left Ottawa at 6 p.m. Monday, they gave the relief organization a total of $300 in donations from both the Yale Debate Association and the individual students.
The group had planned to stay later in the competition but cut the trip short because of a winter storm that threatened road conditions in the Northeast. Erik Eastaugh, the organizer of the tournament and president of the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate, said he appreciated their willingness to stay as long as they could.
“They’re really good debaters and were really stoic,” Eastaugh said.
“Waves of Mercy,” to which all proceeds from the event will go, is a non-profit organization that sprung up to assist relief efforts after the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in December. The group is bringing food and supplies to people in remote parts of the region that have not yet received as much assistance as other parts.
After Eastaugh and former debating partner Jamie Furniss, both students at the University of Ottawa, won the World Universities Debating Championship in Malaysia earlier this month, Furniss decided to stay in Malaysia to help with the organization’s efforts.
Eastaugh said that Furniss had intended to stay back only a few days, but he soon decided to stay until the end of January.
“It was the right thing to do, and he did it, and then once he got into it, I think he was just so moved by the enormity of the tragedy that he decided to stay on,” Eastaugh said.
Denton, for his part, said the opportunity to raise money for relief efforts when a fellow debater was involved was too good to pass up.
“It seemed like it would be a really good way for us to help out and also have a great time,” Denton said.
Chilton said that despite having little time to plan for the event, he and the other debaters were happy to help.
“They needed people to do it on such short notice, so we decided it might as well be us,” Chilton said.
Yale was the only university in the United States to participate in the event. Getting Canadian debate groups to help out was easier, since they are all connected to each other as part of a community, Eastaugh said. Yale’s lack of connection to that community and the short notice made him “a little bit surprised” that Yalies decided to participate.
“That’s why it was so fantastic,” said Eastaugh. “They had no ulterior motive; they didn’t know any of us, they were just coming here for the cause.”