You might find them carefully painting in the letter “A” in “JUST AROUND THE CORNER”, a mural highlighting the dangerous link between increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions and rising sea levels. Or you might spot them scrubbing a tank at the turtle sanctuary, or gently washing a stray dog. Many of them were covered in mud as they returned from planting over 800 mangrove trees.
Despite the wide variety of their activities, these students were all working towards a common purpose: creating a climate of positive change. This was the theme of this year’s UWC Day. UWC Day is an annual global celebration of the United World College mission and values. The day, and the movement as a whole, aims to promote a more peaceful and sustainable future through our own direct action.
At UWCT, we recognise that to bring peace and sustainability to our communities, we must first learn to bring peace and sustainability into our own lives. This focus on self-reflection was a prominent part of the celebration. Earlier in the week, our boarding community had a group discussion about the UWC movement and our own role in it. During the school celebration, many activities, such as creating natural mandalas, encouraged contemplation.
As I walked around campus during the day, I was struck by the enthusiasm and focus of those around me. It was so encouraging to see the dedication of the students and staff; from the young kindergarteners, eager to play their part, all the way up to the teachers, who quietly worked to help facilitate the activities. This showed me how each individual has the potential to bring positive change to a community.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the day was the peace parade, where all students walked together with the flags of their home countries on a path around the campus. Together, our community represents over 70 nationalities. Coming from the US, a country that often finds itself deeply divided based on nationality and ethnicity, it is especially heartening to me when we can come together and celebrate our diversity and our shared desire for peace and a sustainable future.
A desire for sustainability is especially important in our current society, as climate change continues to have a devastating impact on our world. As a UWC, we know that we must work together on a global scale to help our planet. Even though we did not directly join in Friday’s climate strike, a focus on sustainability was prevalent throughout the day. In mangrove planting, gardening and a beach clean-up, students had the chance to directly nurture the environment around them. By designing jewellery from leftover materials and creating books out of recycled paper, students also learned about sustainable art and considered the effects of excessive consumerism.
To truly appreciate the beautiful setting that we have the opportunity to live in, we believe it is necessary to understand the factors that hurt this environment and other environments around the world. We must learn what we can do to limit this destruction, both through our individual actions and by advocating for more effective environmental regulations.
The next day, we continued the celebration within our boarding community. The afternoon was full of games, laughter and delicious roti and enchiladas.
In the evening, we once again donned our national costumes, sat together in our school’s skate park and enjoyed an evening of poetry and song. It was lovely to hear my friends expressing their cultures, aspirations and concerns with such openness. I’m glad that we have a community that encourages this kind of expression and recognises that even critiques are valuable because they help us continue to improve ourselves.
The events of Friday and Saturday reminded me how important it is to foster a sense of community. If we cannot first learn to cooperate and connect with those around us, we will have no hope of creating change on a global scale. To be the climate of change, we must first create a climate of connection.
When my friends from home ask me what UWC and UWC Day represents, I often find myself settling on the same phrase: it represents a sense of realistic idealism. We must recognise what has to be changed, we must recognise that this change is not easy and we must recognise that we are capable of acting with awareness and determination to make this change a reality.
While our actions may only be on a small scale here at UWCT, and while the day was not without its challenges, we hope that our efforts will encourage our students, and our wider community, to bring a change for the better.
– Claire Miller
Claire Miller is a Grade 12 scholar at UWC Thailand. For more information, visit uwcthailand.ac.th