In this difficult period of time, what should we do?
In this difficult period of time, what should we do?

A letter to community members from Mark Wang, founder and Chair of the Board of UWC Changshu China

Content

Dear UWC Changshu Community,

 

The beginning of the Chinese New Year is supposed to be a wonderful time for whole families to gather together and celebrate the Spring Festival. The sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease made this year very different.

 

At this difficult time, I have witnessed the unity and the kindness of the UWC family.  I witnessed how members of the UWC community put UWC values into action through their personal example, caring for others, and facing the unexpected challenges with courage and determination.

 

We witnessed courage and love when fighting against the epidemic.

 

Kurt Hahn, founder of UWC, said, "I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an indefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion."

 

When faced with the epidemic, doctors, nurses, soldiers and people from all walks of life volunteered to work on the front lines. They were themselves sons or daughters, some were fathers or mothers. But never for a moment did they hesitate because of their roles in life, nor did they flinch even when only simple protective equipment was available.  They are the heroes in harm’s way, taking their duties because they have a "heart of love".

 

After the outbreak of the epidemic, our students were in many complex situations. Our UWC Changshu China teachers worked day and night and, within 48 hours, verified the safety of all students from more than 100 countries and regions, and confirmed the travel schedule of every student who had to travel back home. They are the guardians of the community, always committed to their duties because they have a "heart of love".

 

At this critical and tough moment, students of UWC Changshu China took their own initiatives to give their support. They utilized the global network of UWC to raise funds and source the most urgently needed medical supplies like masks to deliver them to the front-line warriors. They are putting into action what they have learned, which is an important element of a UWC education. They are the movers and shakers, holding on to their faith because they have a "heart of love".

 

At this critical moment, we need rationality and unity more than ever.

 

During a crisis, we see the merits of human nature but also the weaknesses. When many of you entered UWC, you had a dream to make a difference in the world as a down-to-earth change-maker. Now, in face of this crisis, you see the fragility and tenacity of life, conflict and antagonism in society, differences and estrangement between people, and of course tolerance and love. During this time, you must have gained a more profound understanding of the vision of Kurt Hahn in founding UWC: the great significance of living and learning under the same roof with students from different countries, regions, nationalities and cultures.  Embracing our differences and understanding each other are the common beliefs shared by all UWCers: we hope to eliminate barriers, promote understanding and become the envoys of peace.

 

I agree with these comments: “Discrimination and stigma are much more difficult to deal with than the virus. Ignorance and indifference are much more terrifying than the epidemic. Confidence and solidarity are more effective than the vaccine.”

 

I hope you can confront the challenges with reason and optimism, learn to think independently, distinguish between truth and fake news and try to become a real change maker instead of a "keyboard person". I hope we can together eliminate prejudice and bias with kindness and wisdom and reduce fear with love and care; with courage and confidence, young people can show that they have the power to overcome setbacks.

 

Even if we are not at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic, we believe every UWCer can still make a difference. By caring for the people around us, helping the community and passing on positive energy, we can all contribute to making the world more peaceful, beautiful and sustainable.

 

At this critical moment, we must take on our own responsibilities.

 

When the virus began its attack against us, we tried our best to prevent it from spreading, and were eager to save precious lives. That is when we first realized how little we know about this invisible particle. The battle against the epidemic matters to everyone.  The human fight against diseases will always be a long and arduous battle that requires generations of effort and dedication.

 

If we think from another perspective, this crisis is also like a real-life classroom. With our mission to promote peace and sustainability, every UWCer should stay alert, think critically and constructively, and pay close attention to issues relating to the development of humankind. A UWC education is certainly not confined to the classroom: it goes far beyond. It is about lifelong learning and the connection with the real world where we can learn to solve real problems with our knowledge.

 

In the future, human beings will undoubtedly face more global challenges. This requires students who will not only embrace rich knowledge but also dare to challenge the unknown. This will need lifelong passion and responsibility for communities, trying to solve practical problems, improving public health, pursuing scientific research, seeking truth and promoting the progress of human civilization at all times.

 

An epidemic has changed the way we learn, but it should not change our determination to learn and to put our knowledge into practice. Through the efforts of all our teachers, UWC Changshu has officially started online teaching. With students scattered in more than 100 countries, online teaching is definitely a challenge for our teachers, because they have to meet students’ needs across many time zones while maintaining the effectiveness of teaching and providing pastoral and emotional support when it is needed.

 

It is also a challenge for our students. Self-learning requires you to be motivated, to take your own initiative, to develop self-discipline and to cooperate closely with teachers.

 

As many of you may know, an air crash in 1993 left me paraplegic. When I was 12, 13, 14…… years, I was in a rehabilitation hospital trying to get back to school. The best five years for a teenager. But I never gave up. With the encouragement of my mother, I was inspired to study by myself. I completed my secondary school courses in the hospital and eventually became the first student from mainland China to be admitted to UWC Red Cross Nordic.

 

In retrospect, I am grateful for that time. Without the hardship that strengthened my will and cultivated my learning ability, I would never have become what I am today.

 

Dear students, please cherish this special time that belongs to you. I believe it will become a most precious memory. Whether at this moment or in the future, I hope all UWC students can keep on learning, hold their own lives in awe, think independently, study with a scientific attitude, and be a person with conscience and love in your hearts.

 

Believe in the future.

 

Because of the virus outbreak across China, this year's Spring Festival will be etched into our common memory with pain and despair but also with warmth and love.

 

Throughout our life journeys, it is inevitable that we will experience the melancholy of loss, the pain of failure and confusion in adversity, but I believe we need always to hold on to our faith – to believe in our future, to believe that everyone can make a difference, and to believe in the power of unity.

 

Today, I am pleased to see the power of UWC education. I see in our UWC students the brilliant flashing light. One parent has sent an email, in which he says: "Through this epidemic, I saw the sense of responsibility and compassion of the students of UWC. They take the initiative to care about the society, showed their love, worked attentively with a strong sense of responsibility. Thanks for UWC education, they understand love, responsibility and mission."

 

I am proud of our UWC students. I am also proud of the continuation of the UWC spirit. I believe that when we are confronted with further "sudden disasters" in the future, the young people of UWC will always retain their courage, go against the flow when facing adversity, and in the boundless darkness, shine a light on hope.

 

Thank you.

 

As the founder and Chairman of UWC Changshu China, on behalf of the board I would like to thank the Principal, management team, teachers and staff for their hard work during the Spring Festival holiday. I want to say thank you to the students who have showed understanding and cooperation, give thanks to the parents and the national committees for their support, and thank the many host families who have helped our students.

 

The situation is still tough. We still face great challenges in maintaining the safety of the School. And we still need support from our community members and families. I hope we can unite and help each other wholeheartedly to come through this difficult period.

 

This harsh winter will end and our lives will return to normal. Although the lasting effects of the outbreak will take time to heal, we believe that as long as we can unite and share our love, we will be able to triumph over the epidemic.

 

Mark Wang

Founder and Chairman of the Board

UWC Changshu China