UWC Honours Peace Day with Island-Wide Acts of Service
September 21st is known around the world as the International Day of Peace; however, to a group of dedicated students, teachers, and families in Phuket; it’s better known as UWC Day—the most widely celebrated day of the school year.
Each year on UWC Day, a sea of more than 400 students, 100 staff and 26 mini buses spread out across the island to embody one of the school’s main areas of focus—meaningful and lasting service—and to “Inspire Change”, a goal shared across each of the 17 UWCs around the world.
Collectively, UWCT filled 89 bags with garbage from local beaches and waterfalls, cleaned rescued turtles and their tanks, walked Bodhi Dogs, built dams in neighbouring communities, learned about the rubber making process, worked with the Gibbon Sanctuary, planted more than 400 mangroves, created reusable “boomerang” bags, tended gardens, cleaned villages, painted murals, and shared stories designed to enhance cross-cultural understanding. In the afternoon, students tackled global issues in more than 30 student- and teacher-led workshops ranging from the stigma around menstruation to animal activism.
What is perhaps the most notable and interesting aspect of UWC Day is that it is not remarkably different than most days at UWC Thailand. Small acts of kindness and scalable acts of service happen daily within this vibrant, diverse, and socially-minded community.
After-school activities that augment the school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum include regular visits to dog shelters, beach clean ups, recycled art activities, mangrove nursery maintenance and mangrove planting, coral reef monitoring, and a sustainability group within student council. UWCT students work with Child Rescue Nepal, on aspects of the Rohingya crisis, and with Green Umbrella in Cambodia. Also on campus is a group of DP students working to host an international UWC short course this July on creating peace through conflict resolution UWCT isn’t a school that simply lists service as important—it embraces and embeds it—even creating a bespoke service class of at least 100 minutes per week from Grade 6-10.
It is a remarkable programme, and it is taking place right here in Phuket.
UWCT families believe that service contributes to building both character and community. It is often within their service projects that UWCT students have authentic opportunities to develop grit and resilience, as well as a lifelong passion for giving back. The school’s families work tirelessly to balance service projects with the IB’s demanding academics. Add to that the school’s concurrent focuses on mindfulness, wellness and the environment; and the result is acampus where idealism is alive and well. So much so in fact, that families in Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and China are starting to take notice.
Last year, while sitting in front of Thanyapura’s pool watching his daughter enjoy swimming lessons with Phuket’s lush mountains in the background, a newly arrived UWCT parent shook his head and told me: “It’s like finding Never Never Land.”
With flourishing businesses still based in Singapore, Phuket enables him to give his children a unique educational experience, and a healthier lifestyle. On island, the family enjoys sailing, practising at Thanyapura’s mindfulness centre, dining out, and sunset picnics on the beach—all for a fraction of what it costs to live in Singapore. I tell my friends back in the US that I never dreamed that I would be able to send my kids to a place that would be so advantageous for their futures. The curriculum and the entire programme is designed to build a human that’s flexible, adaptive and compassionate. The kids in this UWCT system are going to be the disrupters and policymakers.
“The combination of the IB, mindfulness, character development and the UWC-wide mission ‘to use education as a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future’, is compelling. It certainly tipped the scales for our family.”
There are many schools embracing service, and there are many who do it well. At UWCT, it’s not just done well; it’s done with intention, and it’s done with heart.