Writers' Fortnight 2020: What is Writers’ Fortnight, and why is it so important?
By Emma Garrett, Grade 9 Student, East Campus
I thought that this would be two weeks without English “classes”, and at the end all I had to do was to write an article, submit it because I had to, all for an assignment.
I did not expect to come out of the two weeks learning new things about myself that were so personal. I also least expected to actually know what I was going to write straight away, and enjoy writing an article like this, because English hasn’t been my strongest class. So coming out of a talk that made me emotional during an English class, was very unexpected.
Writers’ Fortnight is a human library carousel that takes place in February, when all students from all English classes mix up and go to four different guest speakers, some from our school community and some from outside of school. We listen to their story, and write an article about a topic of our choice or about Writers’ Fortnight.
One particular talk that stood out the most to me was Ms. R’s story.
I listened to a talk by Ms. R’s, a member of staff that we see here on a day to day basis. She talked about how her grandson is being neglected by his own parents. Her grandson and his family live in Australia, while Ms. R and her husband live here in Singapore. She finds it hard to take care of her grandson because of how far away the families are. She tried to have him visit more often, but it is not possible for him because his mother does not allow him to have a passport.
Ms. R says, “My grandson is very quiet, and keeps to himself most of the time because of the fact that his parents often go on vacation without him or leave him at home alone.”
She adds, “He does notice that his parents are not normal parents and he notices that there is something wrong, and he sometimes blames himself for their actions.”
During her talk, I could tell that this is a topic that is still very hard for her to talk about, let alone share with a group of students that she doesn't even know.
She tells me that managing her work in Singapore and also caring and helping her grandson back in Australia can be very difficult for her and her husband, because sometimes all they can really do to help is listen.
This talk in particular made me feel a lot of different emotions; I realised new stuff about myself that I haven’t noticed before. This was the first time I really experienced something like this at my school, the feeling of not being the only one going through something that I can’t share with other people because I would feel embarrassed or too uncomfortable. I felt relieved that I finally have someone at my school that I can relate to and talk to about such a fragile and very personal topic.
I really felt for Ms. R, and I felt like I wanted to do something to help them knowing that there is not really anything that I can do.
I thought that I was like Ms. R’s grandson but in my own way, meaning that I also often feel alone and invisible and sometimes I feel better keeping things to myself and not sharing any of my emotions to anyone, even if it is the worst thing that I can do for myself.
I can tell that this event changed her life, and it’s changing even to this day. Ms. R told me that her grandson and his family had just recently moved houses, meaning that he had to change schools again. This is something that has been happening for a long time, and she told me that his family moved houses regularly, and this is something that he is used to.
I asked Ms. R if her grandson had been seeing any kind of therapist or counselor, and she mentioned that he has, but it has not been constant. She mentions that “He has seen a few therapists, but not for more than about two times.”
Ms. R says that she feels “very fortunate and lucky to be working at a school like UWCSEA” because if she had any problems back in Australia and mentioned that she had to go back home, the school will allow her to do so without any questions asked.
“The school is very understanding this way”, she says, and I also feel very lucky to be a student at this school. I am also very relieved to know that I have someone to relate to and talk to about this topic more openly, and I’m glad that I don’t feel as trapped anymore.
Here is what I got out of Writers’ Fortnight. Don’t go into it like I did, thinking “Oh, I’ll just do it because I have to”; go thinking that you might learn something new about yourself that you’ve never thought about before.