Aurora Humanitarian Project for UWC Schools and Colleges: here are the three Finalist Projects!

After a highly competitive selection process, we are delighted to announce the three UWC colleges whose projects proposals were chosen to proceed to the final round of the Aurora Humanitarian Project for UWC Schools and Colleges. The lucky finalists are: Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa in Swaziland, UWC Robert Bosch College in Germany and UWC Mahindra College in India. UWC International extends its congratulations to these teams for their outstanding ideas, project plans and passion. All three project teams will now be invited to Armenia for the final selection at the end of May.

The Aurora Humanitarian Project for UWC Schools and Colleges (AHP) aims to encourage students from all UWC schools and colleges to set up or further develop service projects that tackle humanitarian issues geographically local or relevant to the ethos of the specific school or college. The AHP is part of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative which was set up to raise public awareness around humanitarian issues and was inspired by the stories of bravery, survival and compassion during the Armenian Genocide. Wanting to celebrate the strength of the human spirit and generosity a century later, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative wishes to recognise projects that demonstrate dedication to achieving meaningful impact - and since 2017 includes the AHP to focus on UWC schools and colleges.

I see project proposals for multi million dollar deals done by international companies on a regular basis in my day job at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and I am frankly super impressed with the quality of the project proposals I saw as a member of the Pre-Selection Jury for the Aurora Project.” said Nandita Parshad, Managing Director Energy and Natural Resources at the EBRD, member of the UWC International Board and member of the Pre-Selection Jury for the AHP: “The quality of the ideas, the presentation of the proposals, the budgeting and the ambition were all of a standard way above what one would expect of high school students. But then I have to remind myself these are not just any high school students, these are very special, highly motivated UWC students!”.

15 UWC schools and colleges participated in the first edition of the AHP. Their project proposals addressed a broad and diverse range of humanitarian issues identified in vicinity to their schools and often proposing close collaborations with local communities. Each of the teams had to submit a detailed project budget setting out how they would spend the prize fund for the first three, six and twelve months, should they win.

The submitted proposals were evaluated against six criteria, all of which direct the projects towards positive change: Creativity, Self-reflection, Commitment, Quality of Research, Sustainability and Impact.

Project teams had to consist of at least four students currently studying at a UWC school or college plus one UWC alum in an advising capacity and one staff member. The Pre-Selection Jury members were particularly impressed with the level of commitment, dedication and passion shown by all members of the project teams.

Driek Desmet, Senior Partner with McKinsey & Co, member of the UWC Council as well as the Pre-Selection Jury for AHP, commented: "All the Aurora projects are really UWC at its best. Our mission of contributing to a better world is a wonderful - but acting on it, is something else. What I loved about each project is how the students really listened to the community around them to understand what would make a lasting difference. They then turned it into something practical that can help change lives - this is not easy at all, otherwise it would already have existed somewhere else. And finally, they created projects with a built-in multiplier effect. That is real social entrepreneurship. Everyone's heart and soul and brain is shining through the projects and I really hope all projects will be turned into ongoing service activities at the colleges."

The three finalist teams are now invited to present their projects at the Aurora Dialogues taking place at UWC Dilijan on 27 May 2017. The winner will be announced on the same day and awarded €4,000 towards the further development and funding of the project.

We congratulate the three finalist project teams and all of the UWC schools and colleges who participated! As the Pre-Selection Jury expressed in their letters to the participating teams: “We were very impressed by the quality, creativity and wide spectrum of activities proposed in the projects and how they demonstrate the commitment to change the world for the better. Looking at these proposals gave us a genuine feeling of pride at what UWC students, staff and community members are motivated to change and how they are dedicated to work for a better world.

Here are the three finalists.

UWC Waterford Kamhlaba: This team recognised the issue of gender inequality and the unequal treatment of women and girls within Swaziland by designing BraveGirl Camp, a weeklong camp for 15-18 year old Swazi girls from urban areas that hopes to give opportunities to future female leaders in Swaziland. BraveGirl Camp aims to take “a holistic approach to girl’s empowerment, starting with a look at personal goals and health and moving towards a focus on the outside world of media and the environment”. The students could count on the expert advice of Waterford Kamhlaba UWC alum Kgomotso Magagula: “Kgomotso has first hand experience of what is like to be a driven young woman in a society that frowns upon the concept of empowered women. Her understanding of Swazi culture has helped shape our approach as to how we can present the project to the public, maintain a sense of sensitivity, and generate an interest without offending the Swazi people”, said the team. Topics for the camps’ workshops include personal concerns such as female-friendships, media and body image, as well as practical types of advice such as the importance of sleep, interview tips and support for HIV/AIDS. As well as empowering the girls attending BraveGirl Camp, the team members found the experience to be encouraging: “Before working on Girl Rising Week and BraveGirl Camp, I had never realized what I could accomplish or to what extent my ideas were actually useful.

UWC Robert Bosch College: The DoGood project is focused at a topic close to the heart of the UWC RBC community: the refugee crises and working towards a more sustainable future. It project proposes to support refugees in two ways: Firstly by providing an online platform on which the refugees can sell their own upcycled, handmade products and secondly by helping them to gain education, qualifications and job training. This project aims to tackle environmental issues alongside the development of people’s skills through the recycled and handmade nature of these products which are therefore intended to be low cost and environmentally friendly. “This will help refugees not just sell these products and earn money, but also be part of society and get a job,” said Mohamed, one of the students in the team. “Furthermore, one of our future plans is to train these refugees to run the platform, so they will gain IT skills and increase their chances of employment. This will help these refugees to change society’s point of view about them.” The initiative works with other organisations, such as Paritaetische, one of Germany’s largest umbrella organisations of self-help initiatives in the area of social work. Alumni advisor Katarina Beckman noted that her UWC education instilled in her “a strong sense of commitment to service”, while first year student Haider stated: “We are working on one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues and we need the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s support to raise awareness about helping refugees all over the world”.

UWC Mahindra College: The Kriyā Iron project seeks to address the issue of anaemia in the rural villages which surround the College, building on work done by Kriyā, a scheme formed in 2013 that allows underprivileged women to develop their skills through outdoor activities. The team has found a specific solution to anaemia: Lucky Iron FishTM ingots, originally developed in Cambodia, are placed in boiled water with a few drops of lemon juice. The ingots are made from recycled material and last for up to five years. The long term goal, however, goes beyond this practical solution and is to drive forward a conversation about nutrition and women’s health more generally and to empower women to improve their own health. The students found the experience enlightening and reported that it changed their viewpoints profoundly: “When the Kriyā team first started discussing the issue of iron deficiency and anemia, it was difficult for me to comprehend the lack of access to both information and iron-rich food many families in this area face. How could they not understand the importance of iron in their diet? And how could they not afford to consume more nutritious food? I’m continuing to learn how to approach these issues with an attitude that balances humility and respect with idealism.” said Kathryn, one of the student members of the team.