Thought: Process

UWCSEA President Carma Elliot invites a community conversation on the creation of peace and a sustainable future for all.

Hope and Inspiration

[fa icon="calendar"] 17 Aug 2021 / by Carma Elliot

Carma Elliot

Barshim and Tamberi Image REUTERSDylan Martinez 2021

This holiday break was like no other: we celebrated Tokyo 2020, the first Olympics to be delayed in modern history, and the first to take place with so few spectators on the ground. Prior to the Games, there was much speculation about the negative impact on the competitors without crowds to roar them on. And yet - the spirit of the ancient Games, the true ethos that it is the taking part and not the winning that matters, was alive and well - perhaps even stronger than ever. This was an Olympics where the refugee nation was represented;  where openly transgender and non-binary athletes competed in their sports for the first time; and where we celebrated some of the youngest-ever medal winners, in sports new to the Games. And where youthful skills were celebrated like never before: I was in awe of the bravery and dexterity of the skateboarders and the sheer aplomb with which 11- and 12-year-olds handled the media limelight which they drew. 

And this was a Games with the most special moment imaginable: when Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi (pictured above) agreed to share the gold in the men’s high jump, having decided they both deserved the gold, and neither wanting the other to lose out. Barshim said, “This is beyond sport. This is the message we deliver to the young generation”, and sports commentators found themselves talking about, “The goodness. The love. The humanity”, rather than about records broken. The Olympic spirit was also alive and well in some of the new mixed medal categories - an increasing recognition that in elite sports, there is much to be gained from celebrating teams which value the different skills and contributions of members - despite, or perhaps because of, the physical differences and individual prowess that each member contributes.

And this was the Games when the courage to be vulnerable was celebrated, with some of the challenges of personal mental health contrasting with celebrations of the power of physical health. How brave it was of US gymnast Simone Biles, carrying the weight of expectations of continued achievement, to stand up and share those vulnerabilities, giving others the opportunity and courage to find their voice too.

The importance of supporting the mental health of our community has been uppermost in our minds this holiday break, as we continue to weather the pandemic and come to understand the toll that not being able to travel and connect in person with our loved ones can have on individuals. There are encouraging signs in the latest announcements from the Singapore Government - let us hope these plans to ease restrictions can be fulfilled: we all have our part to play in supporting these efforts. I am grateful for the continued support of our community, as we continue to respond to the need to implement safe management measures that are designed to help us navigate a gradual emergence from the pandemic, together with Singapore. 

In our own UWCSEA community, we have much to celebrate this year as we launch into a rich programme marking 50 years of the spirit of UWC in Singapore.  There is something for everybody in our year-long programme, which has been developed by and for our community of students, staff, alumni, and parents and partners. We launch our first official event this weekend virtually as we gather with our global alumni community together at their Reunion 2021: all being well, on campus and in-person celebrations will follow soon.

Check out our special programme of 50th celebration events here and register for future reminders  here.

Even as we celebrate the achievements of the past, this year will also bring opportunities to shape our future, as we start to explore our vision for the next 50 years of UWCSEA in Singapore. This will include moving forward with the work we have done together on our Values in Action project, and continuing our pursuit of systemic change as we further develop our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and to the voice of youth in particular, in fulfilling our commitment to an inclusive movement and College, and to celebrating belonging for all.

The milestone event in our 50th anniversary impact programme will be the UWCSEA Forum in April 2022. Under the theme of Learning to Shape the Future we will bring together leaders and big thinkers in education, both from within our community and across the world, with a goal to move our work as a “think tank” into becoming, as we work in partnership with others, a “do tank”. 

Watch this space for more information over the months ahead, as we take forward the inspiration, the spirit, and the hope of this past summer into the future!

Topics: 50th anniversary, future of education, reimagining education, education for peace, UWC mission

Carma Elliot

Written by Carma Elliot

I am internationalist by conviction, with a lifelong commitment to social responsibility, service and building trust and understanding. My family continues to be a guiding force in shaping my approach to the world. I am humbled to serve the UWCSEA community in my role as the College’s first President.

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