Image: Brighton College Bangkok
The value of community building cannot be overemphasised, especially when people come together to fulfil a common goal. Schools play a crucial part in developing lifelong skills for students, and it is that part that we celebrate with the International School Awards every year.
Let’s take a closer look at one of these award categories; the Community Building Award. These initiatives can range from supporting the less fortunate in their community, to promoting female empowerment, to helping people reconnect.
International schools bring local communities together
One of the award nominees, Brighton College Bangkok, Thailand, has approached this with a “Community Critters” programme which aims to develop sustainable support for the local people of the Wang Yai community, who have a rural approach to living. The land that the Wang Yai live on is being rapidly developed which is reducing their space for living and farming. Because of this, many of the young people from this community have moved away in search of better opportunities, leaving the elderly behind.
The Community Critters initiative is student-led and aims to address some of the problems that the Wang Yai face, such as limited education opportunities and medical care. The students worked with their community leaders to support the Wang Yai by providing them access to desperately needed resources and education.
More than anything, Mike Walton, the Headmaster at Brighton College Thailand, said, was that the students “really wanted to connect and make friends. So that we understood each other and knew each other.”
Nord Anglia International School Shanghai, Pudong
Student-led initiatives to overcome adversity
Another shortlisted school, Nord Anglia International School Shanghai, Pudong, China, has implemented “Opening Minds, Opening Lives” (OMOL), a student-led initiative by seven Year 13 students. OMOL specifically aims to “uplift and inspire Chinese orphans through virtual education to ensure they gain the confidence and social skills to successfully integrate into society.” The school was made aware of the struggles that Nanyang Orphanage (Henan Province) was facing as an orphanage that houses over 400 Chinese orphans with varying degrees of disabilities. One of the main concerns is that only 8% of the orphans above the age of 4 are adopted. This, combined with the orphan-to-teacher-to- teacher ratio of 14:1, means that most children do not get the individual, highly supportive attention they need, stunting their growth and development.
To combat this, the students behind the OMOL initiative developed a curriculum, so that the staff were equipped with the expertise and knowledge to support the orphans in the best way that they could. “I think it was really brave for the students to face that challenge of coming up with a curriculum that addresses the needs of these kids,” says Joe Gichana, the Head of Humanities at Nord Anglia International School Shanghai.
Building communities to tackle environmental challenges
The International School of Kenya, Nairobi Launched their “Plastiki Rafiki” initiative aims to clean up the environment by “empowering communities to promote and monetize grassroots plastic recycling.” They do this by developing and fabricating low-cost plastic recycling machines and designing unique recycled plastic products and moulds. All profits are reinvested into machine and product development as well as supporting clean-up activities and the subsidization of plastic recycling centres in low-income settings. The initiative was recognised in this year’s international school awards. The school won the community building award, which was sponsored by BrainPOP.
“One of our biggest missions isn’t just cleaning up our local environment, but also getting people and giving them the opportunity to clean up their own local environments as well,” says International School of Kenya student, Anne Nyangaga. “So that they can create an environment where they’re comfortable raising their children and their own families and as well… As a student myself in terms of what keeps me up at night, or what I think about when I think of a legacy, is… giving [people] the ability to grow and keep on growing on their own. And we’re just empowering each other and living symbiotically instead of having a relationship built on lines, and I think that’s something that I love in being a part of.”
Through these amazing initiatives, international schools will continue to inspire others with how they bring people together and build communities.
To read more about these the shortlisted initiatives click here.