What’s new at international schools this month
Tell us about the collaboration between ISS and Rainbow Centre, a haven for children with moderate to severe special needs.
The nine-month creative project was based around the transformation of four commonplace Louis XV armchairs into art pieces that embody concepts of awareness, inclusion and empowerment. Each chair was a visual representation of the disabilities that the Rainbow Centre children live with. The chairs became part of a larger public exhibition and a donation campaign that funded the construction of a new wing at the Centre.
Why is the project important for ISS students?
This is one of many examples of a “Creativity, Activity, Service” (CAS) project undertaken by each student. It demonstrates how young people can make a difference, and help address world concerns. Their projects are global and diverse, from building a basketball court for an Indonesian orphanage to constructing boats to transport schoolchildren in the Philippines.
What’s the key take-home message for parents?
Elementary students are immersed in a variety of meaningful projects designed to help them meet their IB learning objectives while developing their social and civic conscience. By high school, students’ personal and interpersonal growth, as recorded in their reflections, helps support their applications to higher education. It’s the children’s own reflections, however, that demonstrate the depth of their experience. One student said she found ways to overcome her personal communication barriers with the Rainbow Centre children, while another said working with kids with disabilities showed her that anything is possible.
I started at UWCSEA in August 2015. On completing my secondary education at an all-girl public boarding school in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, I was unsure what career path I would follow. I figured that UWC, with its wide choice of subjects, expertise and facilities, would help me work out what to pursue.
The prospect of studying with people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures was very appealing. My previous school was a small bubble; everyone had almost the same perspective. I wanted a challenge, and knew this would be possible with the exposure to world issues that UWC continually provides.
Adjusting to the boarding lifestyle was bittersweet. It was my first experience of living in a different country, without my family, and the culture shock was evident. However, the boarding house staff and community were warm and welcoming. They helped me settle down and were always there in case I had any problems. I was afraid I would drown in this big community, but with the attention and individual care we receive, it’s impossible for that to happen.
The boarders are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, so the discussions over dinner are interesting! We argue, discuss, defend the stances of our countries, and even correct misguided assumptions. At one of the regular International Evenings, we simulated a Kenyan wedding for the boarding house community, and other boarders presented songs, dances and interesting facts. This was an effective way to come together and tap into the rich culture embodied by the school. A favourite memory is when my Honduran friend surprised me with the lyrics of a Kenyan-swahili song.
UWCSEA’S wide variety of activities has made me more confident, vocal and passionate about world issues. I’ve participated in The Hague Model United Nations in The Netherlands, acted as a Chinese imperial administrator in a school drama production, helped raise funds to aid reforestation efforts, and learnt self-defence skills in martial arts.
On completion of my studies I intend to go to the US to major in international relations with a minor in environmental policy, and return to Kenya to make a difference within my field. Being a UWC scholar is a life- long commitment to taking decisive steps to be a change maker in society. In learning from others I hope to make the future safer, sustainable and more peaceful.