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

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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.

Hunger Banquet at Bedales

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By Godelieve de Bree, 6.2 and Global Awareness Don

Last Thursday Global Awareness held its annual Hunger Banquet in aid of Mosaic Initiative, a charitable group that helps displaced Syrians settle into new lives and plans for a long term solution in Syria.

On their way in to the banquet, participants randomly chose a ticket which was to represent their status for the evening. These tickets had a brief description of an individual that one could find in their bracket of wealth. While the ‘wealthiest’ minority was given a range of delicious treats – including cheesy crackers, cordial and even Gu puddings, the least fortunate had to sit on the floor and were only given a bowl of rice and an apple.

The evening really facilitated conversation about the disparity of wealth and opportunity and really made students confront their fortune. The evening ended with a viewing of Before the Flood, a documentary which follows actor Leonardo DiCaprio as he learns about the realities of climate change. This gave a real insight into the frightening effects of Global Warming and the impact that is already being felt on the global food supply. Thank you to everyone who came and everyone who helped to organise such a great night – we raised over £500!

Apartheid experiences

By Annabel Smith, Head of Global Awareness

Last Thursday Lele Jones visited 6.1 historians to talk to them about her experience of growing up in South Africa under apartheid. It was an extraordinary privilege to hear first-hand about her family’s history in Sophiatown, and then, after their forced removal, in Soweto. Witness to both the outrages of daily life and such turning points as the uprising of Soweto school children in 1976 and the death of Steve Biko, Lele’s memories brought home the reality of a situation that’s often very hard for outsiders to understand.

Lele brought her pass with her for us to see – one of the hated passes that triggered the Sharpeville massacre and tyrannised the lives of millions of black South Africans. She also showed us her ‘Homelands’ travel document which was issued by the apartheid government in place of a South African passport, but this was not recognised by the international community, thus making foreign travel very difficult.

Perhaps the most important journey she ever made was to Botswana, to marry Bedales Maths teacher, Martin Jones. Because their marriage was illegal in South Africa, and different races were segregated into separate urban areas, they soon moved to England. Lele told of her panic on finding herself on the same bus as white people, forgetting momentarily that this was not illegal here. Because of stories such as this – powerfully bringing to life the words of the A level text books – and Lele’s quietly fierce appeal to never be bystanders in the face of injustice, we are already looking forward to her coming back to visit us again. Next time she is going to sing!

Click on the image below to read a news article published in The News, 1990:

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Bedales meets Swaziland

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By Lindsey Lithgow, Teacher of Chemistry

Swaziland is currently suffering from a wide spread drought and the lack of availability of water in rural areas is having a major effect on the people who live there. Over October half term, 25 6.2s went to Swaziland to work with the rural Ngwenyameni School to install a water system which allows the school to access the more reliable underground supplies of water.

dsc_0079The school was introduced to us by SKRUM, a local charity that works in sport and HIV education in over 800 schools in Swaziland. Bedales students raised money over ten months before the trip and saw this money being used to provide a solar powered water pump. Alongside pupils from Ngwenyameni School, Bedales students dug out the trenches for the new pipes and improved the environment in which the children learn by painting the classrooms and upcycling over 80 desks which were found in storage in an unusable state.

The new water supply will aid in the teaching of agriculture at the school, and a new field was ploughed and fruit trees planted – which the school was very keen to have. The Bedalians on the trip also spent time playing with and getting to know the children at Ngwneyameni. On our final day at the school, all of the pupils and teachers gathered outside to watch the Ngwenyameni vs Bedales football match. It was an intense game, ending with a 3-1 victory to Ngwneyameni. Football is very popular at the school and we paid for some new sports equipment from the monies raised. It was a very busy ten days in which the 6.2s enjoyed time in the beautiful country of Swaziland and were able to see the difference the money they had raised will make to Ngwenyameni School.