Before actually booking or researching, we first came to an agreement to complete the three aspects of CAS, through cooking for creativity, trekking for activity, and working at School For Life for service. This made the rest of the planning more straightforward since we all had a common goal and agreement of what we would like the trip to be. I wouldn’t say I had issues with my group at any point in the planning, and that was certainly quite the relief. From the beginning when we filled out the initial request form, each group member picked a role and followed through with it. I was first aider, and while this required more commitment than all the other roles, it didn’t mean that I didn’t help my group members when needed. Often times, I found myself filling in information or doing separate research, especially since I believe the coordinators actually thought I had a different role. Overall, it was very straightforward for us to find and coordinate the various parts of our trip. We had several Skype calls wherein we discussed plane tickets, accommodation, transport, and our different activities. As Chiang Mai was a very popular destination, the timing and duration of the trip had to be staggered and coordinated with the other 5 groups, and part of the UWC’s request was that there would be no interaction between groups, whether in the services, airports, or hotels. We requested to leave earlier rather than later since there were members of our group who had to be back in Singapore for the end of the given Project Week slot. Additionally, it was discussed with the other group going to work with School For Life that we would first completed our activity or creativity requirements before finishing our trip with service. With this in mind, we looked at airfare and tried to pick one of the cheaper flights (going through Bangkok instead of directly flying in). We also picked a location within Chiang Mai to concentrate our search for accommodation in, and settled with the Old City because lots of food, stores, and tourist sites were all within walking distance from one another and the area was relatively cheap and centralized compared to other hotel areas. I was responsible for looking for and booking cooking classes, so I researched various cooking schools online and found several located within the Old City that looked very promising. After having a meeting with our supervisor, I booked a cooking class with Thai Akha Cooking School. Around this time, we booked flights, and we found a very nice hotel for a good price that had a good location and had breakfast included. We also booking a one day trek with Wild Planet, a group that members of my group had actually trekked with previously on school trips in 8th grade. They were very accommodating, especially since one day treks were not typically offered. The actual booking of the hotel, cooking class, trekking, and plane tickets required flexibility and quite a bit of maneuvering, since they all required one other to be completed all at the same time. There were also shared difficulties between all the Chiang Mai groups that resulted in major setbacks in terms of booking, and we quite literally paid the price for the delay. I would say most of our problems came from working with the school instead of working with the the various partners in Chiang Mai, because there were many deadlines that needed to be completed by a set time, appointments that needed to be done with certain people on certain dates, and various other minor aspects of the trip that needed to be prepared for beforehand. Ultimately though, my group was not denied traveling to Chiang Mai last minute, and we had no issues with cancellations from any providers.
While the school often says that you don’t necessarily need to be with your friends in order to complete Project Week, there is something to be said about building better bonds with the friends you already have. Luckily, I did not really experience the struggle many people had of not fitting in to any one particular group, and I ended up being with my two close friends and two other girls I got along quite well with. I knew that all the girls I was with were each organized and prepared to take initiative during the planning and trip itself, which was a very key point in being able to work together. We quickly decided to have a Skype call to discuss location, focus, and our general ideas for what we wanted as a goal. Using some older resources from previous years, we went through a list of locations and services. We decided that we would rather do service along with something else, if not all three aspects of CAS, rather than doing activity and creativity alone. Some of the locations would work because we also wanted to prioritize safety, and the areas or cities were in unsafe times or we wouldn’t be familiar with the area at all. We also wanted to work more with children or with education-based focuses as opposed to working in environmental or animal focused services. I really wanted to focus on working with education because my GC is an education focused group that partners with a school in India. While I was unable to go to the school for a variety of reasons, it didn’t mean I would forfeit my desire to focus on education. Therefore, I was quite excited to work with a group that was also passionate about education. We originally decided on a school north of Phuket to work with, that was located in a national park, but when new resources were sent out, we discovered that the list of approved locations and services were greatly reduced. Continuing on the same line, we chose School For Life in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was located in a safe and familiar city, our service would be a school which fulfilled our focus, and UWC had pre-existing partnerships with various activity providers in the area. This meant that we had a good foundation to begin mapping out our ideal trip and see how we could best fulfill the different aspects of CAS in our own personal manner. We didn’t encounter many struggles into finding a location or focus because we all found ourselves in agreements about the various passions and interests that would help shape how we planned our trip, and this gave us a clear sense of direction that lasted the entire process.
I didn’t know that “Kahaani” meant “story” for the longest of times, but it truly lived up to its namesake.
From what I’ve come to learn about UWC, performances are intense and the amount of time that goes into preparing for the shows is far longer than anything I’ve done before. The week of Kahaani was very busy, with rehearsals until 8 or 9 pm for a few days. But, there was a large highlight to the preparations: people from Voice of World School For the Blind who are partnered with Kolkata GC came to UWC. We had an assembly and they presented to us how exactly the money and awareness that Kahaani brings is used, and they shared a humbling video of the goals that the school works towards. To actually see a physical manifestation of something that we dedicate our time and energy, there are very few words to describe that. I love the idea of actually seeing our efforts, because I think it became very easy to just think of Kahaani as another performance and event that the school has and forget exactly why we all dedicated ourselves to helping Kolkata GC. That was the most meaningful moment of the whole Kahaani experience to me, and made all the long rehearsals and other annoyances worth it. The people from Voice of World School also stayed the whole week to watch the performances, and I hope it brought them much pride and joy to see the amount of people that turned up.
Only since coming to UWC have I had such an immersion in a different culture, mostly due to the amount of different people from different ethnicities. Kahaani is only my second time doing Indian dancing, and it was so different from the first time. There is such a diversity in the styles of the dancings, costumes, and music that it is a constantly changing experience. Kahaani was still incredibly fun, there were so many people I knew in all the dances, and the show week was filled with so many fun memories. I hope to do Kahaani again next year, because it was only something to gain.
In Ladakh over two sessions, we spent the majority of the meetings watching a documentary that is set in Leh, Ladakh. The documentary was about how tourism is causing major changes within the economical and social aspects of living in Ladakh. The documentary was a mixture of many different interviews: some were from tourists, some were from local farmers, some were from local politicians and government workers. Despite this, the views were not as varied as one would think. Many of the interviewees believe that there have been some negative effects of globalization, especially to the native Ladakhi people.
Primarily, the growth in tourism was causing major changes with the Buddhist lifestyle of many of the locals. Much of the Ladakhi culture was being replaced or only highlighted for the purpose of drawing in tourists to Ladakh, which changed how the local people viewed their own culture. It became a tool to use in order to have financial gain. Especially because Leh is unreachable within the winter months due to dangerous weather conditions, the locals must utilize the summer months to the best of their abilities. As farming has decreased due to younger generations traveling from farms into the cities for work, there is a need for jobs within the city that can provide enough money during summer months to last workers for the rest of the year.
Here is a video of the discussion that our group had after finishing the documentary:
The strengths of our service partnership are:
- No one got lost – no one got hurt, we had the emergency team well coordinated
- Lot of the stuff was available from last year so there was enough guides for logistics
- Able to make a profit
- Offered food and water
- We planned for many different situations
- Were coordinated
- Marketed to the High School and many teachers were interestedWEAKNESSES
Identify them and add strategies to minimise them:
- Risk assessment was late as the guides of what to do weren’t organised
- There needs to be a more logical order for what to do in terms of logistics
- Less people for logistics
- Confusion between pledge cards and risk bands
- Too late for marketing
- Unsure of placement in kilometer marker
- Posters along the run weren’t visible or legible
- Not enough people encouragement for runners – didn’t create the right environment (maybe need more people)
- Wastage of food?
- Not enough people showed up
- Not enough people to pack up event in school
Further goals for our service partnership are:
- Printing registration form
- More communication with service office on the steps to organise events
- Expectations and order need to be communicated by service
- Maybe merge pledge cards and wrist bands into one
- Clarify that pledge cards are competitive
- Make it more of a family event
- Earlier market
- More organized shifts for GC members to allow members to participate in event
- Move the date to not be close to exams etc.
- More people for packing up the event on Saturday in school
- Put snacks and water every kilometer for runners to hydrate and eat
Identify them and add strategies to overcome them:
- Weren’t extremely prepared for rain or lighting
- Deadlines were cut close
- Not properly marked hazards
- Markers were wrong so runners confused
In Ladakh, we’ve recently been working in small groups in order to produce three separate videos that can combine to form one video that displays the different goals and plans of Ladakh GC, along with how they connect to the goals and plans of the group that Ladakh GC works with.
My group was set to answer the following questions:
- What are the goals for Ladakh GC this year?
- How do the goals of both Ladakh GC and the Lamdon and Thiksey schools overlap with the UN SDGS?
- What does the Lamdon school do for its students in terms of education?
This involved some research from all the different members, and I directed the younger members to focus on the first question, while myself and another 11th grader each took question 2 and 3 respectively. From this, we then wrote an audio script that would be recorded separately from the visuals.
The Audio Script:
In Ladakh GC, we aim to cover multiple aspects of service in order to best support out NGO. Our indirect goal for Ladakh GC is to raise money for improving infrastructure, specifically improving sanitary conditions, while our direct goal is to raise funds, $1000, to purchase musical and sports equipment and send a project week group to Ladakh.
Part of the UWCSEA core values is to have a strong connection to the world around us, and to have personal engagement in global issues. As a result, all Global Concern service groups are connected to at least one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, along with the personal goals of the NGO or organisation.
The UWCSEA Ladakh GC aims to promote Ladakhi culture whilst aiding the efforts of Lamdon school; this will be by providing necessary classroom materials and organizing 1 key event that we will raise majority of our funds by.
The schools that we work with, the Lamdon and Thiksey schools, have a specific mission that Ladakh GC supports through shared beliefs. The schools have an extensive list of their missions and visions, as can be seen below.
Vision and Mission of Lamdon School:
- To eradicate evils from society by lighting the lamp of education, thus to have a fully content, happy and healthy society
- To achieve our aims and objective
- To provide quality education and equality to all
- To preserve and promote the rich cultural heritage of Ladakh
- To teach the Ladakhi language as a compulsory subject
- To install good values in the minds of the children
- To inculcate a sense of a responsible citizen
- To teach the basics of Buddhism from the start
- To provide free education to the children from poor families (by promotion of sponsorship)
- To provide an education grounded in our own culture to lead a happy and prosperous life
Overall, the mission of the schools are to improve society by giving children of all backgrounds the opportunity to receive a quality education that encompasses the cultural heritage of Ladakh, the sense of good values, and the understanding and participation of Buddhism.
From this, it is possible to connect the goals of Ladakh GC and the Lamdon school to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals number four and number ten, which are quality education and reduced inequalities, respectively. These goals align closely with target 4.7 of quality education that: By 2030, all learners can acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.
The goals of Lamdon and Thiskey overlap with the goals of the UNSDGS in terms of giving quality education to those that can’t afford it, reduce inequality and bring about a change for a better world.
The Lamdon School in Leh has 2175 students and nine other branches all over Ladakh including in the most remote areas. Eight hundred of these students are sponsored by various different donors. The Lamdon School is especially devoted to helping children from remote areas and poor backgrounds and charges a very nominal fee from those students who do not have sponsors. It focuses on preserving their culture and to which end it has made Tibetan Language compulsory till class 8. Those students interested in pursuing their traditional language have the option of continuing with it till class 12. The school has two residential hostels – one for the boys and the other one for the girls. This is an essential aspect of a school devoted to making education accessible for children from remote areas. A hostel acts as a home away from home for these children and they become a family of sorts as their families are mostly very far away. It is critical to the development of a child to have a safe sanctuary to grow up in.
This reflection about the RDA is less about what I do lesson by lesson and more about the deeper implications behind working at RDA and what it means not only for me, but also for the riders that we work with. This reflection is about the global value and the ethical implications that I face while working in this service, and how it impacts me.
LO 6 GLOBAL VALUE (Engaging with issues of global importance)
The largest global issue of working at Riding for the Disabled Association Singapore is working with groups that are outside of the “normal” sphere of society. In current society, there are a lot of issues with Ableism and the way that disabled people don’t have the same opportunities that able-bodied people have. This also means that there isn’t a big connection between the two groups in society, and the groups don’t get the opportunity to interact with one another and work together. As society changes and improves, we’re finding more and more people that face different sorts of disabilities and we’re working to be more open and supportive. Doing this indirectly though is much different from directly working with a group, and that really tests how principled you can be. You have to be able to go from saying “I don’t have that discrimination” to actually displaying that you don’t have that discrimination. So far, I’ve learned a little more about down syndrome (which is the disability that my rider has) but also about cerebral palsy (the disability of another rider I worked with). I know the scientific background of down syndrome, but it’s difficult to actually compare the diagrams in science to a real person. I’ve learned more about how to work with mental disabilities versus physical disabilities, and different ways of interacting depending on what is needed. I think us working with the riders helps them as well. I think that we both don’t know much about each other. I don’t know what they do in their day to day life, I don’t really know what they go through, or what their family goes through. Riding may be the best part of their week, as it was for me, and I hope to help them through. Last week, when I was waiting with my rider for our turn to mount our horse, the rider before us went to mount their horse, and they had the largest smile on their face. I hadn’t ever seen that from this particular rider and it was really heartwarming.
I think that we’ve been taught very little about disabilities. I think that people with disabilities are labelled by their disabilities and not by who they are, and that we can’t see past that. I feel that we’ve been taught to classify them in a different category because they are not as able-bodied/minded as we consider ourselves to be. I’m hoping that participating in this activity forces me to change whatever prejudices are internalized into my mindset and behavior. I’m hoping that I actually act as an openminded person instead of just wanting or thinking that I am one. I’m hoping to learn more about disabilities so that it isn’t a foreign topic and that it’s a comfortable idea to work with.
LO 7 ETHICS (Considering the ethical implications of actions)
The largest ethical issue that I face in RDA is the issue of safety, which can split into a few different subsets. The primary subset is the physical safety of the rider. As a side walker, you are responsible for supporting the rider and keeping up with the horse so that the rider doesn’t fall to either side. This puts an enormous responsibility of safety directly into your hands, linked with your actions. You need to make sure that the rider is steady and that to the best of your ability, there are no falls or accidents. Additionally, you have to make sure that you’re aware of the rider and the horse at all times, and do your best to tailor yourself to each rider. Some riders need more support than others, and some riders want to do things alone. The biggest question for me is how much support do I give? I really worry about the strength and capabilities of myself and my rider, and I’m scared that they could get injured if I overestimate the amount of help they
One of the sessions when I was working with a rider with cerebral palsy, I was extremely hesitant to let go. The instructor kept telling me to only support their ankle instead of their ankle and back and I was very conflicted over this. I wanted to listen to the instructor, as they would obviously know best, but I didn’t want to let go because I thought he would be more likely to fall. Although I did in the end listen to the instructor, I still felt nervous for a period of time after changing my positioning. It was a battle between what would be good for the rider and what I feared could happen.
The second subset is the safety of the rider outside of RDA. We keep information about the rider and their personal details in the RDA facility, and we also do not talk about the riders and their disabilities outside of the people working in our service group. It’s why we blur the photos that we take and is also why, as a personal choice, I do not use pronouns or names, instead say they/their when talking about a rider.
What is Ladakh GC?
I chose to do Ladakh GC because I feel that education is something that is really important to me, especially as someone who gets the opportunity to experience a high quality education in numerous different schools around the world. Because I have this privilege, I really want to share the experience of education with others who may not have the same opportunities or lifestyle.
Ladakh GC is located in Ladakh, India, and supports the communities of the Lamdon school and its affiliated satellite schools. The Lamdon School focuses on both academic curriculum and cultural foundations such as history, language, and song and dance traditions of the Ladakh community. The Ladakh GC primarily raises funds here at UWCSEA to help support the upgrade of school facilities (teaching and housing). The Ladakh GC aims to attain the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4 of Quality Education.
The first session, we split into 4 smaller groups to read and discuss the information in the links below to help us this of the main ideas of the GC and of the schools in Ladakh. This was done to help us come us with a goal we feel really strongly about.
We had discussions on the different links that we looked at and what we found interesting and important before going up to the board to write some goals and ideas for the next year. These goals were then analyzed for their strengths and weaknesses, which we compiled to make a new group goal.
What is the goal that we decided on?
In 2018-2019, Ladakh GC aims to promote Ladakhi culture whilst aiding the efforts of Lamdon school; this will be by providing necessary classroom materials and organizing 1 key event that we will raise majority of our funds by.