The Power and Kindness of the UWC Community
  • Stories of Students

This is the story of the triumph of the UWC community coming together to help Seynabou Gorgui, our first-year student from Senegal.

Having dealt with excruciating pain in her hips and knees from the age of 10, Seynabou’s condition worsened after she arrived in Armenia in August of 2021. It became so serious that Dr Nara Okonyan, our doctor, made arrangements for Seynabou’s hospital admission in the autumn. A round of high-level consultations with top Armenian traumatologists, oncologists, rheumatologists and surgeons shed no light on what course of treatment should be chosen. Nevertheless, Dr Nara continued to take special care of Seynabou, who had overcome many challenges on her journey from Senegal to become a UWCD student.

Seynabou grew up in a village with her father and siblings and loved all sports and outdoor activities. Despite constant pain from an early age, Seynabou spent much of her time looking after the household. She always loved school, with chemistry her favourite subject and she also loved reading, especially books about other countries and cultures. When at age 15, Seynabou heard about the UWC movement, she became determined to experience life as part of its diverse community of learners, and overcoming many setbacks due to her ill health, Seynabou applied and was accepted to UWC Dilijan on a Dare to Dream scholarship, which is supported by a UWC Patron, Mr Shelby Davis.

With her condition worsening in early 2022, Madhu Banerji, our Head of Residential Life, joined Dr Nara in sounding the alarm about Seynabou’s worsening condition, with no prospect of getting better in Armenia. Meanwhile, Nele Schultz, a second-year student from Germany and Australia, who lived in the same residence, had been quietly reaching out to Seynabou, aware how difficult it had become for Seynabou since she could not even attend classes at that stage. Nele heard Dr Nara's and Madhu’s cry for help and organised Help fund Seynabou's urgent medical care! appeal.


Her call was answered by over 300 people from around the world, most of them members of the UWC community, with Nele’s parents leading the charge. Seven weeks on, our community's response to Nele achieved the target of €25k through online and cash donations.  UWCD parents from Germany, Israel and UK offered logistical support and finally identified the right treatment facilities in Germany. Liaising with Seynabou’s father, UWC Senegal National Committee and UWC International Berlin Office provided crucial assistance. Dr Liv Fünfgeld, a UWC Adriatic '86 alumna, a medical doctor, reached out to Nele and is now facilitating Seynabou’s every step in Germany, where she has now arrived. Shy and reserved, on departure to Germany Seynabou said: “I am honoured to be part of such a wonderful community as UWC. Seeing how people care about me and work hard to help me get my treatment in Germany makes me feel positive and hopeful. My family and I are very grateful to everyone who made this possible.”

We wish Seynabou every success in her treatment and look forward to her return to UWC Dilijan. We are grateful to Nele for taking the initiative and to all kind people around the UWC and wider community for being there for Seynabou out of the goodness of their hearts.


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