Nurturing a space for peace – UWCSEA’s Focus on Ukraine: Focus for Peace Week
During the week of Monday, 14 to Friday, 18 March, UWCSEA held a Focus on Ukraine: Focus for Peace Week across both Dover and East Campuses to stand in solidarity with those who are raising their voices for peace and the humanitarian workers who are providing much-needed support for the Ukrainian refugees.
The College-wide effort encouraged all members of our community to understand that peace includes concepts such as social justice, equality and human rights, and goes beyond the ‘absence of conflict’.
With a space for all members of our UWCSEA community to express, engage and educate one another on various visions of peace, members of the community also donated to the Singapore Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal. An out-of-uniform day was also observed, our students across Primary, Middle and High Schools were invited to come dressed in blue and white: colours symbolic of peace as well as in an attire that represented what peace meant to them.
Grade 11 student and National Committee scholar from Ukraine, Hlib, shares his experience:
"I clearly remember the moment I heard about the first explosions in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities in Ukraine. On my way to my third period, I checked the news and couldn’t believe my eyes: official statements about the beginning of the war, people in panic, trying to realise the scale of what had just happened. I tried to call my parents, but it was an early morning in Ukraine. The hours before they woke up were the most challenging hours for me..."
"At the same time, I understood that I could help my country, even being far away from its borders."
Now I feel very grateful for having been given the ability to express my own and my friends’ thoughts here in UWCSEA during Focus Week in support of Ukraine and Education for peace.
"It started with Anika (Grade 11) and Head of Global Concerns, Susan Edwards, helping to organise a group of volunteers who began preparing informational posters to be installed in the Tent Plaza. We were involved in many other activities: making blue-yellow ribbons, having a call with students from East Campus, creating cardboard posters that everyone could hold to express their stance regarding the ongoing crisis. Throughout the week our team prepared a presentation which was shared with all the students during mentor group. It was made to provide both the historical and cultural context of Ukraine and stimulate meaningful conversations about not only how each of us can contribute to the issue, but also about what UWC education encompasses and means for everyone."
"The events reached their pinnacle on Friday, the day when donations were being gathered. During lunch break, students and teachers were able to meet under the Tent Plaza, hold up the posters, listen to Ukrainian music, raise awareness and express their views."
It was an invaluable experience for me personally, as I got to see how the members of my community stand together to help those in need, in this case, the people of my country. In that moment I realised the true power of the UWC community, fighting for the values and rights of other humans.
"All combined, I was feeling, and I still can’t stop feeling it now, an extreme gratitude towards everyone who contributed to this event and gave a helping hand to thousands of Ukrainians in need. I feel truly inspired realising that the UWCSEA community made an actual effort and impact on something that is very important to me, providing its students with an outlet to express their views and compassion."
Part of the team behind the initiative of this recent Focus for Peace, Grade 11 student, Anika also shared her sentiments:
"The crisis in Ukraine is something that has truly shocked and appalled the entire world, including myself. Although I recognise that there are wars and atrocities with similar characteristics that still persist to this day, the current situation in Ukraine really resonates with me emotionally. It was in witnessing firsthand the buildup to this war, especially because of the age of media, and the eventual proverbial spark that set off the powder keg of violence, that I knew we as a school had to take action and come together to inform ourselves and show support for peace. I have always been interested in politics and global relations so naturally everything that had begun to occur was on the forefront of my radar. It is important to note though, that in contrast to other political turmoil or war, Ukraine’s situation had a unique deep personal significance to me, as someone who has had the privilege to make close friends from all around the world, including Ukraine, and so witnessed indirectly the personal turmoil within Ukrainian families. I reflect on how we in the present often look back and marvel at how ignorance festered amongst populations during past times of conflict, enabling this kind of behaviour. Although this situation is not as comparable to the conditions in history, with all the extensive news and social media coverage we have now, I want to use this opportunity to be loud and bring our attention to Ukraine in its time of need. With this focus week, we as a team strove to properly educate the school community on the events that were transpiring, Ukraine’s history of conflict but as well as that, bring awareness about Ukrainian culture in an effort to make sure Ukraine is not forever simply known for its conflict with Russia, but for its rich culture and people as well."
"One of the concerns we thought of going into focus week was to consider if we were inadvertently diminishing the struggles of other countries going through similar and traumatic crises by drawing such attention uniquely to Ukraine. There was a fine and difficult line to walk in order to properly embody UWC’s mission and advocate for peace in all areas. Despite the fact that we had very limited time for orienting ourselves (less than two weeks to set everything up with little to no prior planning was quite a feat and a struggle, to be honest), we could not be prouder of the outcome of our efforts! I’d like to thank Ms Edwards first and foremost for the amazing support that she gave me when I came to her with this project in mind, and as well as that, the whole team; Hlib, Lenka, Anhelina, Josefina and Sivana for coming together and achieving what we did. I hope that in the future as well, this sets a precedent for other students to similarly come forward and raise awareness for issues that they care about. In addition, I also hope that we, as a community, can be more open, curious, and vocal about other international issues that are plaguing the world and that the responses that we get from the community are equally as impassioned."“Focus Weeks are held in response to student requests, always connected to promoting the core values of our aspirational mission: to develop further awareness about the focus issue and promote peace, justice and understanding. Focus Weeks are usually held in response to natural and humanitarian crises, especially when Focus Week includes a donation collection." – Susan Edwards, Head of Global Concerns
Susan also shared, "In short, it is an opportunity to develop our awareness and take action as a community. Focus Weeks are an Important opportunity to take collective action to build a more peaceful, more just, more compassionate world and in doing so, build a more compassionate campus community."
Peace is ultimately an act of justice. Peace and justice are the most important cornerstones of society.
– Susan Edwards
At UWCSEA, we believe a community can be united in a common ambition to build peace while still being a group who may hold similar, diverse or disparate ideas. Our community, created through a purposeful commitment to bringing together those with different experiences, is strengthened by our diversity. On local, national and global platforms, we seek to engage with and impact positively on individuals and communities who hold similar aspirations.
The College community raised $45,422 for the Singapore Red Cross, Ukraine Crisis Appeal. Thank you to everyone who donated so generously.