Nurturing the Changemakers of Tomorrow
Service at UWCSEA | Nurturing the Changemakers of Tomorrow
Written by: Keaan Nesfield
The Service and Sustainable Development (SSD) program at UWC is unlike any other. It provides an unimaginable array of opportunities that enable us to make an impact in our communities and beyond. However, from an external perspective, it is often questioned whether the multiplicity of service pathways we are given, is forming a dangerous sense of reliance and dependence in students. Through fostering an environment where service opportunities are supplied to students frequently, many may question how this learning translates beyond the school grounds. How will students react when they are thrust into the world where the buffet of opportunities fades and they are left to their own devices? Will they continue to be changemakers, or will the passion and commitment that you see within so many students slowly fade without the sparks that once ignited it?
For a UWC student, these questions are not difficult to answer.
At the root of this conversation lies the distinction between exposure and empowerment. It is easy to fall into the illusion that solely through exposure to service - changemakers a born. The SSD program realises that sustainable changemakers are only shaped when you teach students the first-hand skills to invoke change. Through my experiences in the program, it is clear that every activity works to nurture the raw abilities needed to be authentic changemakers beyond the college and in our own lives.
This aim is interwoven into all service groups across the campus; I feel that the Solar for East Initiative at our school is one of the best examples for this case. This student-founded group works to reduce the school's carbon footprint through the funding and installation of solar panels. I have never been apart of a group more dedicated and passionate towards a common goal. Through my experiences in recent months with the group, I have pinpointed many examples where I am not only being exposed to service learning but where the social entrepreneur inside me is being empowered. I’ve learnt about the skill of systems thinking and how to deconstruct complex programs to their core in order to implement lasting and effective change. I’ve experienced the value of direct action and developed an innate passion and appreciation for giving back.
There can often be a slightly romanticised view towards service. Within our sheltered UWC community, it is easy to think service is nothing more than selflessness, giving and ease. Service in the real world is arduous. Although filled with positivity and meaningful connections, at its core, it is hard work. Service is venturing out of your comfort zone in pursuit of a better tomorrow; direct action within the SSD program gives us a glimpse of this awakening reality. I recently participated in an SFE installation where the group fixed the panels into place on the roof of the school. As if a testament to the power of solar energy, the sun was not forgiving during those three hours on the roof. Through sweat and hard labour, we made our way through the stack of panels - individually fixing each one in place. This experience, although tiresome, sparked a unique sense of satisfaction. Through the many direct action opportunities provided by the SSD program, it sparks an internal motivation and appreciation towards giving. It is with this passion that drives alumni to seek their own service opportunities outside of our campus and make an impact in any community they inhabit.
Superficial action acts as a barrier to change. There is a large emphasis on sustainable impact within our school, we are constantly being taught the value of systemic change. Our current task in the SFE team is the perfect display of this. Our overall goal is to educate and inform fellow students about our initiative as well as the value of solar energy in our world. Our approach directly addresses the concept of systemic change, we are breaking down the UWCSEA curriculum to its roots and pinpointing areas in which we can interject SFE learning outcomes. This task has given me an in-depth understanding of the systems and structures in place within an institution. The process of deconstruction was eye-opening in showing me how to effectively enforce change. The applicability of this skill is extraordinary, the ability to understand the foundations within any system empowers you with a wealth of opportunities to make sustainable change.
Service at UWC is never simply going through the motions, at every step, in every session, with every event, students are learning and growing as changemakers. The SSD program does not stop when students step out of the school gates for the last time; the skills, experiences and values are carried within them and steer them into a future of social entrepreneurship. The program gives us the chance to foster a love and eagerness for giving-back, the journey of the Solar for East team truly highlights the powerful applications of the SSD program. I am so fortunate to go to a school in which not only opens so many doors but teaches me the skills and values that act as a key to open so many more.
The Solar For East Initiative recently hit a milestone by receiving the funding for the first 100 panels. We are beyond thankful for everyone who has supported our journey thus far. If you wish to learn more about the cause and discover in what ways you can contribute to a greener campus and greener tomorrow - visit uwcsea/giving