Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow leaves viewers in no doubt

By Lucy Ogilvie-Grant, Parent

Human-Flow-PS-cropThe Geography department hosted a screening of Human Flow in the SLT on Tuesday evening – a wonderful opportunity to see a quite extraordinary film made by Chinese conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei.

Ai Weiwei has personal experience of the agonies of refugee-hood and isolation, having endured exile along with his family. He described how it feels “when life itself is a dimming light on the verge of being completely extinguished” and this surely is the engine that drives his understanding and evident compassion for the individuals who become refugees.

The terrifying experiences and arduous journeys that refugees endure, as shown in Human Flow, leave people despondent and exhausted – rarely do arrivals find a generous or compassionate welcome.

It’s clear to see that razor wire and dog patrols, high fences and forcible removal show that, on a  humanitarian level, the developed world is failing. Ai Weiwei proposes an enormous change of attitude in which we could see people’s struggles for basic necessities prioritised over financial gain. Imagining a life lived in a refugee camp, suspended between a violent past and an unimaginable future, it’s easy to understand how young people could be vulnerable to radicalisation.

There are some breathtakingly beautiful visual images in Human Flow – Ai Weiwei makes it impossible to look away from the burning oil fields, dust-storms and wind-torn tents.  Even his pictures of desperate crowds wrapped in foil heat blankets are works of art, something that leaves one with a distinct sense of unease. There are extraordinary drone shots and some tender and moving still-life portrait ‘studio’ shots. The whole montage, although long, could leave no viewer in doubt that there’s a different and less short-sighted way to approach this immense human migration.

 

 

First Give charity final 2018

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By Beatrice Bonsey, Block 4

Just before half term, five Block 4 groups gave presentations for the First Give charity final with the aim of winning £1,000 for their charity of choice.

The team representing Catalyst went first and showed us a unique video with interviews with people speaking on behalf of those helped by the charity. Next was the team representing Stone Pillow who managed to raise money with a charity bake sale. They made two very inventive videos, one showing facts on homelessness while the other was a motion picture showing that it could be you on the streets. After that, it was our charity, Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association; we showed a video about a child with Down Syndrome finding the charity online and his life improving greatly. We then spoke about how much we had raised and how much this charity has helped families and children with Down Syndrome. After us, it was Jigsaw Trust, who told us about how much the charity does, how it is improving the lives of those with autism and how it is unique by using old planes to help children get over their fear of flying. Finally, the Salvation Army team told us statistics about homelessness and showed a short interview with a person saying how the charity helped him and others. They also told us how they were going to fundraise by one member of the team running two peaks in the Lake District.

The judges then went off to make a decision: they announced Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association the winner!  The £1000 prize money can be spent funding 13 pre-school sessions (1 years’ worth) to help children develop their learning milestones and help families with the children. The charity’s representative who had come to watch was over the moon to receive the money for her charity.

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.

‘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.