On 27 May, the first day of the Aurora Dialogues took place at UWC Dilijan college. More than 700 guests from all over the world, including some of the leading figures in education, human rights and media, gathered to address issues such as access to education, human rights, refugee empowerment and the role of the media.
The entire day was united under the headline “Galvanizing the World”, and included showcases of life at UWC Dilijan as well as a series of six panel discussions designed to engage and connect with the next generation of humanitarians who respond to the question: How can we galvanize people to take action on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable? The UWC movement and the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative share the same vision about raising public awareness of the most pressing humanitarian issues and seeking to generate practical action to help in resolving them.
One of the panels was dedicated to presenting the projects of the three finalists of the Aurora Humanitarian Project for UWC Schools and Colleges. The Project was designed to encourage current students from across the entire family of UWC schools and colleges to set up or further develop service projects that address a humanitarian issue either in the proximity of, or with specific relevance to, their UWC school or college. The three finalists were UWC Waterford Kamhlaba, whose team addressed the unequal treatment of women and girls within Swaziland; UWC Robert Bosch College presented the DoGood project focused on the refugee crises and working towards a more sustainable future. The project created by UWC Mahindra College addressed the issue of anaemia in the rural villages that surround the College.
Following the presentations, the international Selection Jury awarded first place to the students of UWC Robert Bosch College for their DoGood project. In their endeavour to solve the refugee crises, the youngsters suggested two possible options: firstly, providing an online platform on which the refugees can sell their own upcycled, handmade products and secondly, helping them to gain education, qualifications and job training. The initiative works with other organisations, such as Paritaetische, one of Germany’s largest umbrella organisations for self-help initiatives in the field of social work.
The winning project was awarded €4,000 towards its further development and funding. After the winners were announced, however, the co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Project surprised the audience with the news that despite the initial conditions that promised only one prize, all three finalists were to receive equal funding to continue their projects.
Among the inspiring panel speakers were Marguerite Barankitse, 2016 Aurora Prize Laureate and Founder of Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital; Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate, Liberian Peace Activist, Women’s Rights Advocate and Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member; Narine Abgaryan, writer and philanthropist.
Jens Waltermann, Executive Director of UWC International, speaking on the “Education for All” panel, pointed out that the UWC approach is about giving a quality education to the most talented students regardless of their socio-economic background, which helps not only themselves and their families to advance, but to the entire community. “The UWC mission is to inspire young people to become community leaders, to realise this potential and to move into action. No pressure on any graduates today, but this what we are looking for in you”, he said.
The sessions were interspersed with breakout sessions. This was an opportunity for all the guests, students and families of UWC Dilijan students to engage in interactive discussions with the speakers – a chance to have their say, debate and contribute their own solutions to the ideas presented during the sessions.
The day’s events continued with the graduation ceremony of UWC Dilijan Class of 2017, featuring a variety of emotional speeches and performances.
See the full photo reportage from the event here.