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Donor Celebration Event 2018 – scholar speeches

This year our Donor Celebration Event, held at Hort Park on the 20th of February featured speeches from two of our current scholars. Mey, Class of 2018 from Cambodia and Valentin, Class of 2018 from Kazakhstan provided a wonderful insight into life at UWCSEA.

Mey: Introduction

ជំុរាបសួរ Good evening everyone, it is a huge honour to be standing here today and sharing with you our UWC journeys. My name is Mey and I am currently in grade 12. I am one of the 110 scholars from 58 different countries currently supported by the UWCSEA community.

I joined the College in 2013 from a small town called Serey Sophoan, located on the Thailand-Cambodia border – 7 hrs drive away from the Capital city.
Valentin: Introduction

Кеш жарық, добрый вечер, good evening! My name is Valentin Shumakov and like Mey, I am a Grade 12 scholar here. The first two phrases that you heard at the very beginning are greetings in Kazakh and Russian, the main two languages spoken in the country I come from, which is Kazakhstan. I was born in a village near the town called Taldykorgan (which is “just a bit hard” to pronounce) in a family, which is ethnically Russian.

We are delighted to represent the scholar community in offering a heartfelt thank you to everyone in this room for their support of the College and, in particular, the UWC Scholarship Programme.

Mey: Summary of time at UWC

When I first learned about the UWC movement, I wanted nothing more than to be part of it, even if that meant leaving my home and my entire family to come here

I was 14 years old when I arrived in Grade 8 and over the past 5 years here, I have witnessed the dreams of many of us come to life. Things that we could only imagine before, are just here, right in front of us, for us to get involved in and start exploring.

Before UWCSEA, I used to think learning was only about reading the textbooks and getting a good grade in exams, but the hands-on experiences such as the field trips and expedition trips to various countries apart from my own, really opened my eyes and mind to have a bigger perspective. I learned to understand and have more respect for the differences in people and their cultures.

UWC is a door leading to a world full of passions for us to wander through. Like being part of the SEASAC teams and competing across South East Asia, speaking up about global issues at the Model United Nations conferences, doing service with the abused migrant workers in Singapore, working with disabled children, as well as sharing our cultures with others through dance performances such as those in the UN night.

All of these opportunities that we had the privilege to explore while being at UWC have shaped many of us to be the people we are today. The time spent here has allowed us to be braver and care about others in a wider community – not just ourselves or our own families. It gave me the courage to step up and form a debate club in my town and bring the local and global issues into a discussion among the Cambodian youth – to encourage them to stand up and speak about what they believe in and no longer be restricted into following what the society thinks.

Valentin: Summary of time at UWC

Like Mey, my previous school in Kazakhstan was also based heavily on academics and so when I joined in 2016 I decided to use most of my time here to try new experiences. Such as coaching boxing for younger students, cross-country running and being part of the Global Concern organization named “Friends of Fiji”.

However, there is one unique UWC experience I would like to emphasize tonight. Its called Initiative for Peace, also known as IFP and this programme trains students to become facilitators in peace-building conferences which empower delegates from different countries to identify issues and make positive changes in their communities. I got the chance to facilitate a conference in Mae Sot, Thailand, which allowed me to get closer to the major issues faced by Myanmar, including inner tensions between some Burmese states as well as the refugee crisis.

But it was last year, at the first ever IFP conference in Cambodia launched by Kimheang Chham, Class of 2016 and a fellow UWCSEA scholar from Cambodia, that I felt the true impact of the programme. I was a facilitator there and I learned to become more communicative, and – this might sound banal –  I learned how to smile. By this phrase I do not necessarily mean just the facial gesture, I mean that I learned to assume that all people initially have good intentions, unless they prove to have the opposite.

Four days ago I came back from the second IFP Cambodia conference, this time not as a facilitator, but as an organiser together with Sovichea Kon and Julia Schetelig, my fellow scholars from Cambodia and Germany. It has been a great area of growth for me personally and I hope that Kim’s good work, and ours, will create a lasting legacy of empowering Southeast Asian youth to take on the challenges of shaping a better future for their country.
Mey: Hopes for the future

Tonight we have given just a few examples of how a UWC education provides the environment where young people can grow to be more independent, to speak up what is right, the place where we are encouraged to think critically, and to take pride in being challenged, where we can motivate others and play a role in leading change.

I cannot express how thankful I am to be part of this community, to know that there’s a place where we can all share the same values of making our world a better place for all. Thanks to the extended support such as the Davis Scholarship, I’ll be heading off to the US to continue exploring and to pursue my passion in public health care.

To me, the values that I learnt from being at UWC doesn’t end when I graduate from here. It has inspired me to chase my dreams to work with the world health organization and fight against health epidemics in different developing countries around the world.
Valentin: Hopes for the future

Next year I plan to join a university in the U.S. and study engineering. However, since I was given such an outstanding opportunity which is not available for many students in my country, a goal of mine is to enable someone else from my country to live the same experience. That is why I am looking forward to supporting more Kazakh scholars to attend UWC one day, hopefully as a member of the National Committee. Kazakhstan is known for its diversity, hospitable culture and many opportunities, but if more young people got the chance to experience the UWC education, these things can be developed even further.

By sharing my story, and the stories of my UWC friends and the positive changes that we have managed to accomplish together, I hope to inspire others.

Your support does not end with Mey and me, or indeed my fellow scholars and students here today, but it will continue to live with us for years to come.

Thank you for your continued belief in the power of a UWC education. We hope you have a great evening!