You are probably aware that UWC has a special sensitivity to refugees, from our UWC Refugee Initiative (in partnership with UNHCR) to Amala, the first international high school curriculum for displaced youth set up by two UWC alumnae. More alumni and current staff are involved in this initiative for which I have the utmost respect and which deserves any support we can give them.
Our community has experienced the inflow of internally displaced people when women and children were evacuated from Nagorno Karabakh during the war in 2020. At that time our work focused on providing all the support we could, from the produce of our green house to educational materials for the incoming children, as well as purchasing basic supplies and clothes. Unfortunately, we were limited in being able to engage them the way we would have had we not been in the midst of a COVID wave. The students involved in those efforts are now alumni but the working memory of our community carries that sensitivity.
There are plenty of studies analysing how we respond differently to news whether it is received via media channels versus personal experience. Last Tuesday we had a very powerful and moving Global Issues Forum in which, after a general introduction to the situation of refugees worldwide today, our refugee students as well as those whose families have hosted/are currently hosting refugees, led different group sessions sharing their experiences. It was truly experiential learning taking place in our context and using the deliberate diversity of our student body as a learning resource. In my two-decade career experience in international education, it was one of the best cases of powerful learning.
I would like to end this post doing two things. Firstly, I would like to honour the experience of our refugee students, who have had life experiences that many of us can only imagine. Their resiliency and personal courage is admirable.
Secondly, I would like to tip my virtual hat to those families in our extended community who have hosted or are currently hosting refugees in their homes. Thank you for making the world a better place with your personal example.