By Sauvé Fellow Jaspreet Khangura
A trio of new arrivals marked our second week at Pearson College UWC. Three Fellows joined the rest of the group in BC at the start of the second week – Charles Onu, who had delivered a stirring a Walrus Talk on social innovation and the future of African leadership the night prior to his departure, Rolando Jr. Villamero, who was attending a UN conference in Dubai, and myself. Reunited, we had an opportunity to delve deeper into our Team Project, on which we will elaborate in future blog posts.
Three Sauvé Fellows from past cohorts also joined the group, flying in from Medellín, Colombia, Istanbul, Turkey, and Toronto, Canada, for Conference Week with Pearson students.
That week was also marked by the return of the Pearson students from “Project Week”. Project Week is a Pearson tradition that encourages service leadership. In the past, students have built housing for the homeless or worked with street youths. Others have created and led workshops on racism, crewed on sailing expeditions or volunteered at community organizations. While the students were away for Project Week, the Fellows had the run of the beautiful Pearson College campus for our second DIP (Deep Immersion Program), but we were thrilled when the students and faculty, who really are the soul of the campus, returned.
Our workshops throughout our Conference Week at Pearson College explored various aspects of Authentic Leadership. Socrates once said, “Let him that would move the world, first move himself.”
We kicked Monday off with an opening ceremony in which we shared our personal stories and the workshop line-up for the week with the students. The day was also marked by an engaging guest lecture by renowned journalist Gwynne Dyer, who spoke about the impact of colonization on the Arab world in the context of modern-day politics. He used his assertive, iconoclastic style to engage students, Sauvé Fellows and teachers in serious reflection.
On Tuesday, students chose between two Fellow-led workshops. Schooling the World encouraged students to reflect on the value of non-Western ways of learning and knowing, and on the loss of indigenous cultural/community integrity that occurs when children are taken from their communities and placed in Western education systems. For many students, the film resonated deeply with their personal experience. Brijlal, who is Tharu, (an Indigenous Nepali people), shared the ways that his own life has been shaped for better and worse by his educational experiences: leaving his village for Kathmandu and subsequently leaving Nepal to study abroad at United World College schools in Norway and Hong Kong. Brijlal and his Sauvé colleagues created a space in which students shared honest emotions and perspectives of both what they have gained and lost by leaving their home communities to study as part of the UWC community.
Culturally Intelligent Leadership aimed to help students understand the importance of cultural intelligence and how cultural upbringing shapes the way we talk, think and behave. The workshop, led by Edison Hyunh, highlighted how culture affects students’ role now and as future leaders. The workshop was well received. One student from Ghana even remarked that she had: learnt things that I will apply everywhere I go in my dealings with people – at home, here at Pearson, out in the world. I think especially in light of the aims of Pearson College, this session will help overcome cultural misunderstandings, build stronger communities and create stronger friendships.”
On Wednesday, the Sauvé Fellows joined Pearson students in their Community Action Service (CAS) activities. Charles, whom you can often find with either a tune on his lips or a guitar in hand at home in Montreal, attended a session on “Guitar, Voice and Musicianship”. Other Fellows joined in the community greenhouse and woodworking class where the Pearson students are building their own canoe! And then on Thursday, migration and refugee issues were discussed during a joint panel session featuring Sauvé Fellows and three Pearson students who fled with their families from South Sudan, Afghanistan and Kurdistan.
During our last two days, Pearson students took part in workshops on Reconciliation, Campaigning & Advocacy, Medicine, Health and Technology, Peer-to-Peer Advocacy and International Development. One student described the latter as a “completely mind-expanding” critique of international development and a useful discussion on how to work in the field while being true to oneself. Part of the discussion looked at shifting the focus from aid to factors that keep individuals and communities in poverty, as well as on how to ensure participation and representation of marginalized communities.
The Peer-to-Peer Advocacy session allowed students to reflect on practical strategies to empower themselves and their peers to become advocates for change in their own communities. The session included a discussion of the tensions associated with working with marginalized groups, including representation vs. allyship, high-level policy vs. on the groundwork, and the impact of language and terminology (identity-first language vs. person-first language).
On Friday, the Fellows were treated to a boat trip to the stunning Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Race rocks is a small island – the southernmost tip of Western Canada – and the site of a marine science project stewarded by Pearson students since the 1970s. With their research and advocacy, Race Rocks was named a provincial ecological reserve in 1980 and designated a Marine Protected Area and 2000. Pearson students are the designated guardians of the reserve, and it was incredible to see the ownership and responsibility that students took for this beautiful site. We came face to face with seagulls, sea lions and even a bald eagle! It was a truly special experience for us.
In between workshops, Sauvé Fellows joined classes to discuss with students questions related to their course subjects. These exchanges with students, as well as our numerous exchanges over meals, in workshops, in classrooms, and during the rare ‘off-schedule’ moments will remain, I think, one of the highlights of our Sauvé year thus far!
On our last day, we hosted an informal closing ceremony, and even managed to get all the students to join us in singing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love (with you)”. On this high note, several Sauvé Fellows and one staff member joined the students for a traditional Bay Jump into the frigid Pacific Ocean. It was a dramatic and hilarious end to a very special two weeks, and initiated our community into what we hope will be a longer-term relationship between our two like-minded communities.
We are so deeply grateful to Pearson College for welcoming us all so generously. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to share our knowledge and expertise as public leaders with younger future leaders. We can honestly say that we learned as much from the Pearson Community as they did from us.