Block 4’s social action

By George Vaux, Block 4

First Give Final 2017Recently, Block 4 was tasked with selecting various charities for the First Give programme. First Give works in partnership with secondary schools and awards £1000 to each group that has the best presentation (left: 2017 finalists). Our groups are giving their presentations on Friday 9 February, just before Block 4 parents’ meetings. A large segment of the presentation is on how much money the group raises and how much awareness the group can raise for their chosen charity.

The group that I represent chose a charity called Jigsaw. Jigsaw is an independent day school based in Cranleigh for children on the autistic spectrum, and after visiting the school, it is apparent how much £1000 pounds could change the children’s lives. A large majority of the children cannot speak, so some of the award money, or any donated money, can go to speech and language therapy or for the more severely autistic children. They can buy more IPads that they can use to communicate, instead of using an outdated medium called a PEC board – which is very hard to understand. The money can help give the children experiences that they wouldn’t normally be able to have with their families and such a small amount of money can help with such a large amount of other things.

The school itself values individuality and quirkiness and doesn’t try to mould the children into something that they aren’t. Their highly professional care team is outstanding considering the small size of the school. They strive to make the children’s environment safe and caring, yet enjoyable. The school have an online donation page so please do donate to this great cause: https://www.justgiving.com/jigsaw

Being globally aware

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By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness

Being globally aware does not have a quiet period so we are starting the new term preparing for the wealth of upcoming events in the Global Awareness (GA) calendar. The eagerly anticipated V Ball, run by GA sixth formers for sixth formers, will take place on 7 February. This event is an annual fundraiser for Amnesty International; it is an exciting collaboration as we work with Amnesty to develop a range of educational materials for use in schools and colleges across the UK and beyond.

On 2 March we are delighted to be welcoming Gareth Owen OBE, the humanitarian director of Save the Children to address Jaw in Dunhurst and a Civics lecture at Bedales. Gareth’s wealth of knowledge and experience will undoubtedly give students across the three schools much food for thought.

We continue the theme of student-led initiatives on 13 March with the annual Hunger Banquet. This event gives students the opportunity to understand the inequalities that exist across the globe and the frustration that this can create. A dedicated team of students from Blocks 3, 4 and 5 are running this event.

Finally, we are incredibly excited to announce that this term, Global Awareness will run as an activity in both Dunannie and Dunhurst. This will be facilitated by myself and run by Block 5 BAC GA students as part of their BAC assessment. This will give younger students the opportunity to develop their own global awareness and allow the older students to plan and deliver the activity, developing their knowledge in a different way. Please watch this space for collaborative events being planned by the groups.

Refugee turned author enthrals at Bedales

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By Tess Voyle-Partington, Block 5

On Monday, Gulwali Passarlay, a former Afghan refugee who went through an extremely difficult journey to be where he is today, spoke in the theatre about his life and how he has achieved all he has, despite the barriers he faced along the way.

Gulwali began his journey as a young child in Afghanistan during the era of the Taliban. Because of the issues the Taliban presented, the country was very dangerous. In his book, The Lightless Sky, and during his talk, Gulwali explains that his mother was terrified of what would happen every time her children stepped out of the door. Even just walking to get some groceries caused worry.

To start the evening, a group of students were invited to dinner with Gulwali at Keith’s house and we were all lucky enough to have individual time with him and have a conversation before he delivered the annual Global Awareness Lecture later in the evening. During my talk with Gulwali he told me how passionate he was about the issues we are having in the UK at the moment; Brexit, young people having the vote and lots more issues he wants to raise awareness about.

After dinner, we accompanied Gulwali to the theatre,where a large number of students from the school, parents and visitors from outside of the school also attended. He began by talking about his book and going through his journey across Europe in great detail. Overall, the evening was extremely interesting and educational, notably giving many people a more in-depth insight into how refugees are treated and how we act around the controversial debate of refugees and their rights.

View Gulwali’s talk below.

‘Head, Hand, Heart’ in Swaziland

Swaziland 2018

By Lucy Ellis in 6.2

Over October half term, a group of sixteen 6.2 students and four teachers flew out to Swaziland to work with Othandweni Primary School. In the months leading up to the trip, we each came up with fundraising activities – some were more adventurous than others (skydiving vs. ice cream selling), but we managed to raise the amount of money necessary to buy our supplies.

At Othandweni, we partnered with SKRUM, a charity working to improve schools throughout Swaziland. They helped us with our main project, which was the digging of a trench for water pipes. This trench ran for 250 meters through the school and connected to a newly installed solar powered water pump lifting water from 45 meters underground through a borehole – dug with the money we raised earlier in the year. Unfortunately, our final days working at the school were accompanied by clouds and persistent rain so we were unable to see the solar panel in action, but we have since received word that it is successfully pumping water throughout the school.

Our other large project was the painting of the five main school buildings. The colours of the school buildings had previously been red and yellow, but with Othandweni’s recent association with a local church, the colors were required to change to white and blue. In addition to these projects, we varnished, repainted and repaired around 100 desktops and frames. The loveliest part of these tasks was that the students from Othandweni volunteered alongside us and they obviously took pride in improving their school. They put us to shame, painting with precision and digging with a power none of us except maybe Maud could match!

On our last day at the school, they took part in a ceremony for us, which included traditional songs and dances. We were presented with small souvenirs as tokens of thanks, as well as a handmade card designed by a student.

Aside from our work at the school, we enjoyed waking up early to go on walks where we managed to see a family of hippos swimming together, a sight we didn’t realise until later was quite rare around those parts. We also had one free day at the end of the trip where we had the chance to go on a horseback ride or cycle through the game reserve, and later in the day we visited a local crafts market to pick up small handmade souvenirs.

It was truly amazing to feel we had made a difference at the school, and we were so lucky to have the unique chance to get to know the warm and welcoming children and adults in a culture so different to ours. The swarms of tiny high fives and hugs as we were leaving Othandweni were enough to make any of us return at the next possible opportunity.

How should we understand Jihadist terrorism?

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment 

Since the recent terrorist attacks in Britain, many have been again facing the question: ‘We’ve learned that Islam is a religion of peace, so where does this terrorism come from?’

I read a passage from this very moving book on Wednesday in Notices and also wrote about it in 3i, our bulletin for gifted and talented students. It’s by Omar Saif Ghobash, the Ambassador from the UAE to Russia. Called Letters to a Young Muslim, it is addressed to his son, and goes through all sorts of issues in Islam, from knowledge and the Qur’an to men and women and Radicalisation. It’s a great way in to understanding Islam, written from within the tradition, and I’d really recommend it. Jane Kirby is sourcing a copy for the library.

The word ‘Jihad’ is often used as a synonym for Islamic terrorism. Jihad means ‘struggle’, but actually, using it to mean a terrorist attack is a bit misleading. Jihad can mean a war, but in a very similar way to Just War Theory in the Christian tradition. There are all kinds of conditions you have to meet for this kind of Jihad, including no innocents being killed. The terrorists don’t live up to this idea of Jihad. More than this, though, this kind of Jihad is the Lesser Jihad.  The Greater Jihad is another kind of battle, an internal battle, fought in our souls. Unlike the Christian tradition, which (through Augustine) saw our nature as fallen, the Islamic tradition sees us having equal potential for good and evil. Each of us, it is said, has 75 angels of good, and 75 angels of evil. The Greater Jihad is for us to struggle to conquer our demons, and for the good in us to triumph.

This video is really helpful in understanding this idea:

WE not “me”

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Block 4 students attended WE day at the Wembley arena on 22 March as part of the First Give charity follow-up and to learn more about putting the WE ethos into practice.

WE is a youth empowerment movement that brings people together for service, learning and active citizenship. The key message is to help shift the notion of “me” to “we.” The charitable arm, WE Charity, is an international development charity that partners with communities to help lift themselves out of poverty using a holistic, sustainable five-pillar development model based on education, clean water and sanitation, health, opportunity and food.

The event in London brought together world-renowned speakers and A-list performers such as Kate Winslet, The Vamps, international human rights advocate, Maria Munir and education activist Muzoon Al-Mellehan and tens of thousands of young people to celebrate a year of action that transformed communities and changed lives. View photos.

Trump and Brexit makes for lively discussion with US students

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By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government & Politics

On Thursday, 23 February, Global Awareness, Politics and Economics students enjoyed a live discussion with Lake Forest Academy in Illinois.

This was the brainchild of Head of Global Awareness, Annabel Smith and marks a ‘first’ for Bedales. It was fascinating discussing Trump and Brexit while live with the American Politics students and gave interesting insights into Trump and American Politics; for instance the students did not seem worried by the fact that Trump got three million fewer votes than Clinton, explaining that this ensured that low density population rural states were not eclipsed by high density liberal cities.

The American students were interested in how we viewed Brexit. We had our Brexit-favouring expert George McMenemy to offer a considered reflection, ably assisted in the discussion by Kirstine Gernaa-Knudsen and Tom Reynolds. Lake Forest were interested in the link between Brexit and Nationalism and the whole question of immigration where we found links with America and much to discuss.

This was a distinctly different and refreshing lesson and we hope to repeat the exercise form time to time. Thanks to Lewis and Bedales ICT for setting up the technology and especially to Annabel for pursuing her contact at Lake Forest to such a fruitful end.