‘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.

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.

First Give: Students cash in for causes

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By Mary-Liz Houghton, Teacher of English and Classics

On the last day before half term, seven Block 4 teams took part in the final of the First Give Charity competition. The Programme encourages an entire year group of students to identify social issues in their area and engage with local charities that address them. The students then have the opportunity to compete for £1,500 of grant money spread between three charities. Teams do this by advocating for their charity in a competition-style ‘pitch’.

The scheme of work promotes many aspects of Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural education within secondary schools. The finalists, along with their whole year group, had spent time since September choosing a local charity to support, visiting them and then producing a group presentation including PowerPoint slides and, in many cases, their own film. There were heats to decide which teams’ presentations were the most powerful and then these were entered into the final.  The winning team, who were supporting Guildford-based charity, Disability Challengers, gave a very effective, moving and well researched presentation and thus won their charity £1000.

The two runner-up teams, supporting Stone Pillow (a charity supporting the homeless in Chichester) and The King’s Arms (which supports young people in Petersfield) each won £250 for their charities. All the teams, regardless of winning even the heat, have raised money this year for their chosen charity.

Bedales hosts head of DEFRA

By Jonathan Selby, Head of Government & Politics

On 22 November, the Politics Society was lucky enough to host Clare Moriarty. Clare is the Permanent Secretary (head) of DEFRA (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) a department that employs thousands of people. She comes then, from a very senior position at the heart of government and it is not often that after a lecture students and staff ask if that lecturer could be persuaded to return, yet this was what happened.

Clare’s hallmark was a wonderful clarity as she spoke about the Civil Service, DEFRA and Brexit. Not normally a fan of power points, this was an exception – for the slides were brilliant. I recall, for instance, a triangular representation of the Civil Service and government. Virtually the whole triangle was coloured green to represent the Civil Service (enormous) and the top was red to represent the Government (tiny). In an instant the size and importance of the Civil Service was brought home.

Clare spoke with real authority and you could see why she had been promoted to head of DEFRA. She was also very modest and there was no sense of self-importance, just the sense of complete competence and confidence. She used an interrogative style, frequently asking questions of the audience. It kept the students’ attention. For the final question session, after 20 minutes I had to draw the session to a close. It was a sure sign of the interest that had been awakened. Clare, should you read this – please regard it as an invitation to return.

Jaw: challenging extremism

Dr. Usama Hasan, Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies at the Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism think tank, delivered the Bedales Jaw on Wednesday 3 February.

Usama talked about the goals and successes of the Foundation as well as his own personal history. Having grown up as Muslim in England, Usama explained how many people had treated him unfairly purely based on his devotion to his religion. Despite this, Usama graduated from top universities (London and Cambridge) and became a leading scientist gaining an MSc, MA and PhD in Theoretical Physics and Artificial Intelligence.

Usama talked openly about his past as one of the leaders of the Salafi Islamic movement; he and many of his men fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia during the 1990s. Returning to the UK, Usama published a series of essays and academic papers that address Islam, law, equality, scientific ethics and human rights as well as joining with the Quilliam Foundation to challenge extremism.

After the talk, a group of students joined Usama for dinner where discussion focussed on tackling Islamophobia through media, gender equality within religion and the rising tension between the Israelis and Palestinians. Overall, Usama broadened our knowledge on a variety of topics whilst managing to explain the different perspectives between extremist and pacifist Muslims.

By Athen Brady, Block 5

Operation smile

 

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I work for Operation Smile, an international children’s medical charity and I helped arrange for volunteer Phil McDonald to speak at last week’s Jaw. Phil, who is an anaesthetist and also the charity’s Medical Director, has been volunteering his time and expertise for over 20 years. Phil has travelled all over the world and helped treat thousands of children most of whom are now free of seriously debilitating facial deformities.

170,000 children are born with a cleft lip or palate each year; 70% go untreated. To bridge this gap, Operation Smile send volunteers on missions throughout the year to treat as many patients as possible over a five day period and train local healthcare professionals to continue their work.

Children living with clefts often suffer from infections, malnutrition, breathing difficulties and bullying. Luckily the condition is easily treatable through basic surgery and can take as little as 45 minutes to correct.

The talk ended with a short video showing a mission in Ghana – the reaction of the children and their families really drove home just how important the work Operation Smile is.

By Digby Neave, OB