Life after UWCSEA: Pushing the frontiers of positive change
By Casper Ohlers, Class of '19, Scholar from Denmark (through Alexandra Touchaud, UWCSEA Fund Engagement)
After graduating last year Casper Ohlers, UWCSEA scholar from Denmark, could have been forgiven for heading home for well-deserved holiday. But, imbibed and emboldened by the UWC values, Casper and a core team of UWC alumni, set to work on a project that was close to their hearts – running a Peace Conference in Denmark.
The beautiful paradox of UWC is that celebrating our differences is one of the things that unites us. We form a powerful community of shared values and ideals – and many graduates report the challenges and frustrations of transitioning to life ‘out in the world’ where they find increasingly polarised societies, where lines are drawn between ‘us and them’. Casper and his team had faced exactly this as they returned to Denmark – major schisms in the community where immigrants were finding great difficulty integrating. These alumni drew on their skills and experience working on Initiative for Peace (IFP) conferences and planned a project in Casper’s home town of Roskilde. Casper shares an update of his experience:
During the summer, I sat up a new Initiative for Peace Conference in my hometown of Roskilde in Denmark. The conference was facilitated with UWC alumni from both Dover, East and the UWC Thailand campuses.
We decided to do an IFP conference - inspired by the IFP curriculum at UWCSEA - because growing xenophobia and direct racism in the public discourse about refugees and immigrant in Denmark is a stark contrast to the ideals of the UWC movement.
In short, we wanted to take lessons learned through our UWC experiences and implement them directly into a local setting to make a tangible difference.
The three-day peace conference that we held in Roskilde, included youth of refugee status as well as youth with Danish ethnicity. Connecting youth of different backgrounds and actively seeking common ground through peace-building activities, made the conference turn out successfully.
All the facilitators and I learned many lessons in the process of making our very own IFP conference outside of school. It takes courage to believe in an idealistic project in a setting where no where near everyone is convinced that the UWC values should be strived for. Therefore, I’m very proud of my team of facilitators and the brave participants who spent time with us.
From UWCSEA Dover: Agnes Bjørn Andersen (Danish scholar ‘20) Marta Shcharbakova (Belarusian scholar ‘18) Zoë Wilson ‘18 Anna Kurth ‘18 Casper Øhlers (Danish scholar ‘19)
From UWCSEA East: Anna Donova ‘19 Anna Hopkins ‘19 Éva Muquet-Vaillant ‘19
From UWC Thailand: Caroline Søgaard (Danish Scholar ‘19)
Changemakers in action. Thank you to these passionate young alumni – for challenging our societies to be better and more inclusive as they spread a message of positive social change. May the ripples of this work continue to spread far and wide.