Dear friends of the UWC movement,
This month, I have had the pleasure of visiting two UWC campuses - UWC Atlantic and UWC Costa Rica. Both visits gave me immense joy, and I eagerly anticipate future visits to other schools and colleges. At UWC Atlantic, I was privileged to participate in an educational vision prototyping workshop, seeking to imagine an educational programme at the intersection of peace, sustainability and experiential learning. It was wonderful to have Dr Anton Beguin, Chief Assessment Officer at the International Baccalaureate (IB), as part of these discussions to help strengthen our longstanding relationship with the IB.
I was also happy to participate in the 24-hour Race Wales, expertly organised by a committed group of students. It was very inspiring to look out of my window at 2am and see groups of students, faculty, staff and national committee volunteers running several laps around the campus in freezing conditions! On joining the race, I was accompanied for a few laps by the College Librarian, Ahyla Fountain, who spoke movingly about her observations of student growth during her time at the College. Incredibly, more than £16,000 was raised to contribute to the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery in Thailand through an organisation called The A21 Campaign. To Lucia, Abo and Jordan who led the Race Wales organising team, thank you for reflecting our values so clearly through your efforts. Throughout my time at UWC Atlantic, I was struck by a demonstrable sense of taking ownership, and this has stayed with me since.
At UWC Costa Rica, I was grateful to be involved in the College’s 15th anniversary celebrations. The joyful atmosphere created by students, faculty and staff, management team, board members and volunteers, was just wonderful. I listened to the Sustainability Coordinator, Sofia Quiros, speaking about the many ways in which the College is committed to creating a culture of sustainability; I heard the Co-curricular Director, Nancy Solis, explaining the ‘thematic weeks’, designed to enable critical conversations about important issues; and I listened as Biology teacher, Jeff Norris, talked about how the concept of reciprocity with the environment is informing the design of the new campus so that it becomes an even better home for indigenous plant and animal species. Again I was struck by the ownership that each of them demonstrated. It was excellence in practice, and I know that the same applies at each of our schools and colleges.
This same sense of ownership has translated into our collective response to the unprovoked and unjustified aggression on a sovereign territory witnessed in Ukraine. As a movement, we know that it is not enough to respond with words of condemnation, instead we have taken ownership for action, as our mission challenges us to do. After the news of the war broke, we reached out directly to our stakeholder communities and expressed solidarity with those most directly affected - our Ukrainian students, faculty, staff members and volunteers, as well as our Russian and Belarussian community members who join us in condemning violence and aggression in all forms.
It has been heartwarming to read about the many ways in which our schools and colleges have lived out our mission by extending additional scholarship offers to incoming students from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus - raising funds for the humanitarian response, and providing logistical support to those who are fleeing violence. Special thanks in particular to the members of the Ukrainian National Committee who have persevered with conducting selections in the midst of unimaginable uncertainty and at personal risk.
We are unequivocal in our commitment to shaping a more peaceful and sustainable world, and we do that best by going farther than anyone else to bring together young people from all backgrounds to live and learn alongside each other. And so when others pursue their aims to divide through military force, we respond by making education a force to unite people, nations and cultures. I will leave you to read below about the incredible results of our UWC for Afghan Youth Appeal, proof again of our solidarity and determination to act as a force for peace in the world.
With endless gratitude for everything you do in service of UWC’s mission.
Executive Director, UWC International