The 1935 Peace Ballot in Wales

By Rob Laker, History Masters Researcher, Swansea University (student placement with WCIA’s ‘Peace Heritage’ programme).

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The 1935 Peace Ballot was a UK wide poll of Britain’s electorate designed to measure the public’s opinions regarding the key debates in international relations at the time. Despite lacking government sponsorship, the Ballot received extraordinary attention across the United Kingdom – nowhere was engagement higher, however, than in Wales, which quickly came to be recognised as a leading light in the cause of internationalism.

1,025,040 people in Wales voted in the Peace Ballot of 1935… 62.3% of eligible registered voters”

Between the wars, a new form of outward-looking patriotism had become an important part of Welsh national identity, as ordinary people worked actively to create a Wales which existed at the centre of the international community. Local branches of the Welsh League of Nations Union were active in every corner of Wales, running cultural events such as ‘Daffodil Days’ – the since forgotten annual custom of selling daffodils in aid of the League – and coordinating networks of local activists. This pride in their nation’s role in the quest for international harmony manifested itself in Welsh responses to the Peace Ballot, producing an overwhelming endorsement for the cause of internationalism.

The UK Ballot

By the end of 1933 it seemed that the international order was unravelling: the World Disarmament Conference had failed to produce results, Germany had withdrawn from the League of Nations, and the organisation had proved itself unable to resolve the Manchuria Crisis.

Internationalists in Britain, however, were anxious that the government remain committed to the League, and so the League of Nations Union set about organising the Peace Ballot in order to demonstrate the British people’s unwavering commitment to internationalism. Between the end of 1934 and the middle of 1935, half a million volunteers canvassed door to door, collecting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ responses on five key questions:

1)    Should Great Britain remain a member of the League of Nations?

2)    Are you in favour of all-round reduction of armaments by international agreement?

3)    Are you in favour of an all-round abolition of national military and naval aircraft by international agreement?

4)    Should the manufacture and sale of armaments for private profit be prohibited by international agreement?

5)     Do you consider that, if a nation insists on attacking another, the other nations should combine to compel it to stop –

       a) by economic and non-military measures?

       b) if necessary, military measures?

Credit – Northern Friends’ Peace Board, c/o Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) 

Despite being independently conducted, the Ballot – which received 11.6 million responses nationwide – has been described as Britain’s first referendum, and was highly effective in stimulating engagement with the key issues dominating international politics. The poll did not disappoint its organisers, for the result was an emphatic endorsement of internationalist policies from the British public.

  • An astonishing ninety-seven percent of voters felt that Britain should remain in the League
  • while ninety-four percent believed that it should outlaw the arms trade
Read more

WLNU Postbox in the Temple of Peace today.

The Welsh Case

In Wales, the organisation of the Ballot fell solely on the shoulders of the Welsh League of Nations Union (WLNU), a challenge which it took up with great enthusiasm. Vast reserves of internationalist sentiment, which permeated every corner of Welsh society, were an important part of interwar society. To believe in Wales was, in this period of salient hope, to actively pursue the cause of peace, thereby locating the Welsh as a ‘force for good’ at the crux of global anxieties.

Google Map of Communities who organised Daffodil Days between 1925-39, collated by Rob Laker for his feature article on Daffodil Days of the WLNU . Zoom, or click on pins, to find individual communities. Further info on local activism can be gleaned from Welsh League of Nations Union reports (digitised by WCIA on People’s Collection Wales).

Lord David Davies of Llandinam  (painted by Sam Morse Brown:  National Museum of Wales collections)  

As a result, Lord David Davies (who co-founded the Welsh League of Nations Union with Rev Gwilym Davies) was determined that Wales should produce a spectacular result in the Ballot which he viewed as the very ‘essence of democracy’.

Drawing upon a committed network of volunteers across Wales, supplemented by an army of canvassers (paid at the personal expense of Lord Davies), WLNU representatives went door to door in nearly every Welsh town and village collecting responses.

The responses proved to be an affirmation of Wales’ internationalist credentials, as over one million adults voted in the Ballot – which at the time, represented 62.3 percent of the Welsh electorate (24 percent higher than the average across Britain as a whole).

As of 6th June 1935, the top twelve constituencies in Great Britain with the highest percentage turnout were all in Wales, in some of which over eighty percent of the total electorate responded to the ballot (RH).

In a few cases, turnout was particularly spectacular. In Llanerfyl (Montgomeryshire), for instance, all 304 of its adult inhabitants responded to the poll, likely a testament to the zeal of local activists.

Turnout was in fact much higher in villages than in large towns across the board, and despite hosting the headquarters of the Welsh League of Nations Union, Cardiff produced some of the lowest turnouts of the poll.

We can interpret this as evidence that the success of the Ballot in Wales rested not just in the League’s popularity, but in the strength of Welsh community activism. It is highly likely that organisers in villages such as Llanerfyl (Montgomery) and Nantlle (Gwynedd) were able to achieve a 100 percent response rate because they operated in a tight-knit community, allowing them to rally support face-to-face, one neighbour at a time, in a way which proved more difficult in larger cities.

It is worth noting, however, that despite the strategy of going door-to-door in their local communities, activists were still able to obtain phenomenal results from many larger towns. In Port Talbot, for example, 82.8 percent of the town’s 27,000 adults voted.

Viewed in this light, the results of the Ballot are a testament to the strength and scale of the local networks upon which the Welsh League of Nations relied upon for support.

The way in which Welsh people voted also reflects the strength of their commitment to internationalism. In fact, just 1.7 percent of voters in Wales wanted to leave the League – around half the national average – while Welsh voters were consistently more often in favour of disarmament.

Wales had proved itself a ‘special case’. As historians such as Helen McCarthy have noted, the League of Nations Union was the largest ‘League themed’ society of any in Europe and easily enjoyed the most popular support. It is not unreasonable then, in light of the disparity between Wales and the rest of Britain in Ballot responses, to conclude that…

“in 1935 the Welsh ‘were the most ardently internationalist nation in Europe’.”

Digitised Wales Peace Ballot Records

This collection draws together leaflets, voting forms, campaigner bulletins, articles and analysis by the Welsh League of Nations Union for the 1935 Peace Ballot - a national canvass of public opinion on Peace in the context of the then-escalating European Arms Race. Although the Peace Ballot was an initiative by the UK League of Nations Union, Wales set out explicitly to 'lead the way' and 'top the polls,' to demonstrate the strength of feeling in favour of peace, 16 years after the end of WW1.

The bulletins gave a detailed breakdown of progress on the Ballot, returns from each county of Wales (with comparisons to England), and analysis / encouragement from key figures in Wales' Peace movements. The bulletins carried motivational 'Opinion Pieces' from leaders of Wales Peace movements, such as Gwilym Davies and David Davies; and in depth analysis of the returns received from constituencies all over Wales

Later bulletins and introduction of 'YMLAEN / ONWARD' newsletter, explore implications of the results for Wales' peace building movements, and impact upon domestic and international political affairs - in particular, the meeting of the 1936 League of Nations in Geneva, which was regarded as a failure on the part of national governments. A poster graphic illustrates the UK-wide results, and Wales' leading place within the polls - with 5 of the top 10 constituency returns being Anglesey, Aberdare, Swansea East, Rhondda West and Merthyr Tydfil.
1935 Peace Ballot – Briefing for Households 1935 Peace Ballot – Canvassers’ Briefing ‘Peace Calls for Plain Answers to Simple Questions’ – 1935 Media Article Bulletin 2, Jan 22 1935 Bulletin 3, Feb 6 1935
Bulletin 4, Mar 9 1935 Bulletin 5, Apr 9 1935 Bulletin 6, June 7 1935 Bulletin 7, Oct 1935: ONWARD YMLAEN / ONWARD Bulletin, May 1936

Outcomes for Britain

The will of the people was unequivocal – Wales and Britain wanted to remain in international circles – what this meant, however, remained open to interpretation.

The organisers of the Ballot presented the result to the prime minister and his cabinet, but it quickly became clear that, due to the binary nature of responses, that the format of the Ballot was a poor vehicle for dictating policy.

‘Remain may have meant remain’, and ‘disarm may have meant disarm’… but the Ballot gave no sense of the scale or manner of which these aims should be pursued.

This left little room for nuance, and instead general opinion was measured without details of its practical implementation. The failure of Ballot organisers to frame the poll’s questions within the myriad complexities of Britain’s international position, made integration of the Ballot’s result into policy making both confusing and impractical – and so the consequences of the Ballot in Britain’s foreign policy are hard to identify.

The Ballot may have failed to significantly influence policy, but the strength of the poll lay in its ability to measure popular opinion. It demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of the population supported Britain’s active involvement in the League of Nations, even if there was no uniform vision of what that involvement should look like.

Across Britain, League of Nations Union branches enjoyed a surge in membership and enthusiasm for the League which, despite the Abyssinia Crisis and the aggression of Hitler, was maintained right up until the outbreak of the Second World War.

UK wide returns against the 5 questions posed by the Peace Ballot.

 

Outcomes for Wales

WLNU Organiser Rev Gwilym Davies

The Welsh League of Nations Union had a very clear idea of what the result should mean for Wales. For Gwilym Davies (Organiser of the WLNU) the result of the Ballot was ‘the vindication of the democratic right of a free people’ and a demonstration of the ‘notable achievements’ of Wales in the cause for world peace.

In a bulletin on the subject of ‘facing the future’, Davies called for the ‘Welsh million’ to be converted into one hundred thousand new members across Wales. While this roughly eight-fold increase failed to materialise itself,

the WLoNU organisation more than doubled in size, reaching 27,545 paid members by 1937 – the highest at any point in the interwar period.

For Wales, Gwilym Davies published a Constituency by Constituency Analysis of the 1935 Peace Ballot voting returns – which can be viewed on People’s Collection Wales at: www.peoplescollection.wales/items/1247091

Clearly then, far from being a fleeting spike of interest, the Peace Ballot was the source of revitalisation of Wales’ identity as an international nation.

Furthermore, the setbacks suffered by the League of Nations in the mid and late 1930s – instead of leading to disenchantment – only made people in Wales more determined that the principles they had committed to in the Peace Ballot should be upheld. This wave of enthusiasm for peace through internationalism was carried right through to the outbreak of war in 1939 and beyond, later providing the support structures and the much of the personnel for the creation of the United Nations.

One such example is Gwilym Davies himself, Director and co-founder of the WLNU, who not only became president of the Welsh National Council of the United Nations Association, but is considered to be a key architect in the creation of world education & scientific body UNESCO.

Temple of Peace: Headquarters befitting a ‘Booming’ Movement

One of the most striking and longstanding results of the Peace Ballot in Wales is the Temple of Peace and Health, which was opened in Cardiff in 1938.

Envisioned by Lord Davies as ‘a memorial to those gallant men from all nations who gave their lives in the war that was to end war’, construction of the building was started in 1937 at a time when the organisation was rapidly expanding.

'A New Mecca'

Account from the Opening Ceremony, ‘A New Mecca’, from the Temple of Peace Archives

It was felt that, in light of the precarious international situation, it was more important than ever for Welsh internationalism to have a headquarters which suitably reflected its growing influence. Thus rose the Temple – a bastion of peace, intended to make good the sacrifice of those who fell in the ‘war that was to end war’.

Today the Temple of Peace still stands – an enduring legacy of the Ballot’s success. The organisations it now houses continue to work in the spirit of the Ballot’s organisers, inheriting the desire that Wales should be at the centre of the international community.

The WCIA – Welsh Centre for International Affairs, founded in 1973, is the modern iteration (the ‘grand daughter’, via UNA Wales) of the Welsh League of Nations Union. WCIA continue the work and vision of WLNU, and the million Welsh people who voted in the 1935 Peace Ballot, to build a better, more peaceful world.

WCIA, like their predecessors, believe that Wales is a nation which can create real and lasting change in the wider world. It is for this proud tradition – driven by the dedication and commitment of local people across Wales – that the galvanising effects of the Peace Ballot should be remembered today.

Blog article and research by WCIA Research Intern Rob Laker, on placement with Wales for Peace from Swansea University History Dept over Summer 2019 with ongoing research through 2020. Drawing on materials from the National Library of Wales and Temple of Peace Archives; and Annual Reports of the Welsh League of Nations Union 1922-45 on People’s Collection Wales, digitised by WCIA (with support of Swansea doctoral student Stuart Booker) for open access research. Final edit by Craig Owen, Wales for Peace.

Rob Laker, WCIA Archives Intern




Global Perspectives on COVID Pandemic: Solidarity, Community and Cooperation

Published on 25th March, in a fast changing international situation.

As the COVID Pandemic of 2020 has reached ‘lockdown’ for the UK and many other nations, the need for our communities – and community of nations – to work together has never been greater. Wales and the World are inextricably linked through global health: pandemics know no borders – and information is international. In an age of social media we are intertwined, and interdependent; we are Humankind.
Kindness, compassion and clarity will help us to face this world crisis, and support the most vulnerable, through cooperation and humanity – from the local to the global. Over coming weeks, WCIA will be sharing (via WCIA’s website, Twitter and Facebook feeds) ‘stories of solidarity’, links to reliable information / updates, and examples of inspiring civil society, individuals and community leadership from around the world.

View WCIA’s ‘Global Perspectives’ Blogs

 

Wales amidst a Global Health Crisis

Wales and Welsh communities must do all we can within a crisis of global proportions – and requiring global solutions. Summarised below are quick links to key sources of information and updates from around the world; ways that people can take action in local to global solidarity; learning from our heritage; and stories of solidarity from individuals around the world.

Quick References and Information Sources

UK & Welsh Government, NHS and Voluntary Sector

Global Health Bodies & Cooperation

Reference Resources and Useful Articles

temple of peaceWCIA and the Temple of Peace & Health

As with all venues and workplaces, the Temple of Peace is closed throughout the shutdown period and WCIA staff have been working from home since Monday 16th March (though as with many in this challenging time, our capacity is limited).

  • Venue bookings, and all WCIA events, have been postponed until the COVID situation becomes safer.
  • WCIA are sharing Stories of Solidarity (see below) from around the world; and useful resources (such as home learning and means to take action) via WCIA’s Twitter and Facebook social media feeds.
  • WCIA are supporting international volunteers on placements through UNA Exchange to self-isolate if in UK, and to find passages to their home countries where possible / appropriate.
  • Hub Cymru Africa and the Wales Africa Health Links Network are offering guidance to local linking organisations and charities supporting or whose work is affected by COVID.

Internationalism in Action: Taking a Global Stand

How are internationally-minded individuals in Wales able to contribute to understanding and combating the COVID crisis in any way… on top of looking after themselves and their loved ones in a lockdown? WCIA will be gathering and sharing actions and ideas of people Wales and world-wide via our social media channels, and here:

Community Action

Gemma from Hong Kong shares her experiences of COVID in WCIA’s Global Perspectives blog.

Global Learning

Global Action

Global Partnerships

Global Perspectives: Stories of Solidarity

Campaigner Glenda Fryer with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose leadership has been praised worldwide, shared her feelings as Kiwis entered a month long lock-down.

At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases. We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-19, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.

Personal ‘Stories of Solidarity’ from across the world, mapped.

Learning from the Past: Heritage of Cooperation

Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire – Canadian War Graves from 1918-19 Spanish Flu Epidemic (Geograph)

Not since the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918-1920, has the world experienced something of the scale the world is facing today in COVID19. Affecting as many lives globally as World War 1 itself, “Spanish flu” (so called, ironically, as Spain was the only WW1 nation that allowed uncensored reporting on it to save lives), ended up infecting 500 million – of whom 17-100 million died, making it the world’s worst epidemic since the ‘Black Death’ Plague of 1331-1353. In Wales, between 8,700 and 11,400 people are thought to have died.

Alongside Tuberculosis, the combined impact of World War One and Spanish Flu inspired the creation of Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health – home to WCIA today, and opened in 1938 as a beacon for the nation’s efforts to end the scourge of tuberculosis, and secure sustainable peace through global cooperation – initally through the work of the WNMA (Wales National Memorial Association for Eradication of Tuberculosis) and WLNU (Welsh League of Nations Union).

After World War 2, these movements evolved to support creation of the NHS (National Health Service) and the United Nations – two of humanity’s greatest achievements in facilitating cooperation for the common good. In the words of the Temple’s founder, David Davies:

“A ‘Temple of Peace’ is not of bricks and mortar: It is the spirit of man. It is the compact between every man, woman and child, to build a better world.”  

Has a generation taken our grandparents’ inheritance for granted? Over recent decades, support for and resourcing of these ‘institutions of humankind’ has fallen, health services and social care have suffered strident Austerity cuts, and many nations – the UK and US in particular – have turned inwards and away from the very bodies that enable international cooperation in times of crisis.

The COVID Pandemic will seriously test – and potentially reverse – many of these policy approaches. Working in global cooperation and solidarity with others, we will owe it to a generation who lose their lives, to come through this crisis to build a better world.

 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford addresses the nation on 23 March.  




Hiroshima 75: Campaigning for Peace, from the CND Cymru Archives

August 6th 2020 marks seventy five years since atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Many thousands of people were killed instantly, and many thousands more were injured; the long term effects of radiation exposure included cancer and leukaemia, and the threat of nuclear annihilation has overshadowed international affairs for generations since.

Hiroshima Peace Garden, Japan

CND Cymru and WCIA, alongside people in Wales and worldwide are marking this poignant anniversary by joining many events online, such as CND’s ‘Peace Wave’ Commemoration. We also pay tribute to those in Wales and worldwide who, over the last 75 years, have campaigned vociferously for an end to nuclear weapons – with the launch of over 40 years of newly digitised CND Cymru Archives, through WCIA’s Wales for Peace heritage programme.

Wales’ main Hiroshima Remembrance event – planned for this week’s National Eisteddfod in Tregaron – fell victim to the many COVID event cancellations over this summer. However, citizens in Wales and world wide can still raise our voices to call on governments to act – and listen to the powerful testimony of nuclear survivors, many of whom are at the heart of commemoration events in Japan this week.

SIPRI – Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Jill Evans, CND Cymru Chair

There can be no better way of honouring the memory of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, than vowing never to use these horrific weapons again.

Jill Evans, ex-MEP and Chair of CND Cymru

CND Cymru and Wales’ Peace Heritage

CND Cymru works for international peace and disarmament, and a world in which the vast resources now devoted to militarism are redirected to the real needs of the community and the environment.

The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have galvanised peace movements from 1945 to today to campaign tirelessly for prohibition of nuclear weapons. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was established in 1957, with a grassroots movement spearheaded by local branches; and from 1958, Aberystwyth and Cardiff (alongside many other Welsh communities) evolved into the Welsh National Council of CND. In 1981, CND Cymru became a national organisation in its own right, leading campaigns such as the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and the 1982 Bridgend Nuclear Bunker Campaign.

CND Cymru feature, ‘Heddwch’ magazine Summer 2005

The next generation of UK nuclear weapons would cost over £200 billion. CND Cymru has never been clearer that the UK should abandon Trident, and instead ratify the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was adopted by the UN in 2017, and to date has been ratified by forty states. Only ten more states need to ratify the treaty before it comes into force.

Anti-Nuclear cover artworks from the Archives

Jill Evans, Chair of CND Cymru, said: “As we adjust to living with Covid-19, we have an opportunity to reassess our future and our priorities. By remembering the awful impact of the use of nuclear weapons, the world could resolve that they will never again be used and that the money spent on their manufacture and maintenance could instead be invested in health, education, welfare, jobs and combating climate change.”

Archiving Four Decades of Activism

Ahead of Hiroshima 75 this August, over the COVID lockdown volunteers Craig and Tom Owen have been supporting CND Cymru to digitise their archive materials – amounting to many thousands of pages – including the iconic and colourful ‘Heddwch’ Magazine, from 1985 to today.

CND Secretary Jill Gough,
photographed for ‘Women War & Peace’
by Lee Karen Stow

Heddwch Magazine – along with ‘Campaign Wales’ and ‘Heddwch Action News’ – have been edited through the years by CND Cymru National Secretary Jill Gough, from Glynarthen in Ceredigion. WCIA previously spotlighted Jill’s enormous contribution to Wales’ peace movements as part of our 2018 ‘Women War & Peace’ exhibition with leading photo journalist Lee Karen Stow, now permanently displayed in the Temple of Peace in Cathays Park, Cardiff.

We are sure you’ll agree, on reading through the vast amount of material Jill has produced over the decades, that the archive is a very fitting tribute to a remarkable life’s work!

CND Cymru’s archive collections have been made publicly accessible through People’s Collection Wales, building on WCIA’s longstanding relationship with the National Library of Wales through the 2014-19 Wales for Peace project. You can explore the collections, and Wales’ rich peace heritage of the last 4 decades, in more detail below.

Call for Volunteers – Can you help with next steps?

WCIA are seeking digital volunteers from September onwards to assist in cataloguing the article listings for all of the CND Archive materials on People’s Collection Wales. These tasks can be done remotely; and would suit volunteers who are confident with basic online tools (for which training will be given). If you would like to contribute towards making the CND Cymru Archives ever more accessible for future generations of students and researchers, please email walesforpeace@wcia.org.uk.




Think piece: How can we create a better Wales post-Brexit?

A series of think pieces and podcasts has been announced by WCVA to focus on the future of well-being in Wales.

Our CEO Susie Ventris-Field and Gethin Rhys from Cytûn, co wrote a think piece titled Responding to the climate emergency

Challenges mentioned in the think piece include climate change, and connecting the local and global by developing trading

The pair can also be heard discussing the challenges the voluntary sector in Wales can help meet in respect of the climate emergency on the podcast which you can listen to here –A better Wales: looking beyond Brexit




Black Lives Matter and global citizenship

At the WCIA, we want to see all young people thrive as informed, skilled and empowered citizens. Part of Global Learning or Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) is empowering young people to understand, discuss, debate and act on global issues that affect their lives, and teachers need the knowledge, understanding and confidence to engage with these, often complicated issues.

Many young people across Wales will have experienced or witnessed the structural racism that underpins the #blacklivesmatter protests. During lockdown, young people will have participated in the protests or seen them on the news. For some young people, the return to school this week may be the first opportunity to discuss this in school with friends and teachers, and to process their experiences. We’ve invited Naila Missous, a primary school teacher who leads on Religious Education and History, to share some thoughts and tips for teachers as they return to school.

By Naila Missous

Schools will be developing their approaches to the new curriculum in Wales which gives ample opportunities to include current events/world events across the curriculum.

With four main purposes steering the direction of this new framework, the Welsh curriculum allows for a holistic and real-life approach to its learning, for its learners. Of these four strands, one, in particular, stands out, especially as we join the fight for black lives matter: ethical, informed citizens who are ready to be citizens of Wales and the world. I think it is important to note the mention of ‘and the world’ in this instance, as Wales becomes an ever more diverse nation, welcoming families and their children in school, and young people prepare to interact with global issues throughout their lives. Yet, world experiences are usually married with general life experiences. That is to say, you cannot feign a global experience if your surroundings, your interactions and that which you consume does not cater for a global diet.

Heightened more so by the black lives matter re-movement this year, the voice of black and brown authors, figures and history have been pushed to the top of many an educator’s agenda: but is this mirrored in the curriculums and embedded as a standard?

Fired up by this, I will admit, as a teacher, it amplified what I had always been feeling and thinking: if pupils can’t see themselves in the content they’re being taught, then how can we expect them to aspire for the same heights as that of the mainstream? And why is it important?

University of Wolverhampton approach to the development of inclusive curricula

This infographic provides a visual suggestion as to how any pupil accesses their learning, unconsciously to the begin with, then eventually the realisation of what they’re learning becomes more obvious as they progress in their learning journey. As the Welsh curriculum is a continuous journey from age 3 all the way up to 16, the understanding of the curriculum must be shared between both teacher and pupil. Children should be able to understand the reasoning behind what they’re learning, not just the facts. And how does one keep the pupil immersed in what they’re learning? Engagement. Too often physical behaviours and oral attitudes of pupils are blamed on the individual themselves; but rather, there is a whole plethora of reasons why a pupil may be disengaging thus leading to these behaviours. If the learning doesn’t involve them, include them or say their name, then why expect any engagement. In this instance, the pupil has a right to feel betrayed by what they’re learning.

It is often simple steps that make the biggest impact. For example in my teaching of the reign of Queen Elizabth the I, I married this with the ties she had with the Islamic Empire, thus by default having to mention Islam, and many a country on the Silk Route. It includes children not only in the learning, but quite literally in the history, too. It becomes less removed, and more personal.

It is a time for tough questions and even tougher implementations. An inclusive curriculum means not placing groups in opposition to one another, but also respecting the richness in the diversity. No cloaking over the fact people are different, no forcing of linked commonalities. Celebrate the difference in uniting through a shared humanity. If we use yoga for mindfulness in school, let them know that is in fact a Hindu spiritual practice that holds great importance for so many Hindus around the world. The classroom is a space that allows for a free-flowing movement of knowledge and language, if you let it be that way. Discussing the ‘White Lives Matter’ banner at a recent Burnley football match with my bubble of children in school allowed for a lot of insight, from a child’s perspective. They knew this incident was offensive, and the open dialogue within the classroom allowed us to frame why and what we could do next as citizens. Pedantic enforcement of ideas that do not involve every ethnic background is indeed a nose-dive.

The areas of learning and experience in the Welsh curriculum do not dictate prescriptively what one can and cannot teach; and so, this is a great time to bring to the forefront the experiences of teachers from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, as well as giving them credit when credit is due. This should not be a tokenistic professional learning event where a teacher is used for the benefit of others on a platform; rather, make well informed decisions, collaborations and real changes. It is okay to admit to not knowing, that is a fresh starting point to encourage your own teaching journey.
Unknowingly to teachers who are fired up with the passion to tackle structural racism- and I fully am on this side – there will be teachers who feel overcome with worry about being presented with difficult situations. How can they teach what they do not experience? What if a parent approaches you with a robust conversation topic that you are unsure in handling? Firstly, this is how many a pupil may feel when their learning doesn’t marry up with their own experiences: a little lost, a little “What is the point?”, and a whole lot of “I can’t relate to this”.

As teachers, we should be able to seek out positive, informed and solid discussions not only with our pupils, but also with their carers. As such, below I present some ideas and hopefully starting points for these situations:

  • A parent disagrees or is wavered by the content of what their child is accessing. An unconscious bias may lead to them wanting their child removed from a specific religion lesson, or figure being covered in history. Allow the parent or carer to explain their concerns and reason; it’s all about being listened to and acknowledged. This will be particularly important as the right to withdraw pupils from religious education and RSE changes.
  • A difficult conversation arises between a teacher and their student. Many times, the students will have views that are adopted through home life or those they associate with, and this is not always obvious until a debate in the classroom. Instead of punishing or sanctioning (and it may be something that initially shocks you), instead, explore the view, and allow them the space to say it. Sometimes saying it out loud is a starting point for realising the negativity in what they’re sharing.
  • Giving them space in class when they may hear, or say things that are racist (intentionally or otherwise). It’s important to mention that racism as a fundamental behaviour isn’t okay. We know that, but it is not enough to just not be racist: you must be anti-racist. However, unlearning is something that a teacher and student can both do. Shaming vs diverting the factual attention of the speaker are different approaches: one shames and cancels, whilst the other allows for a stop, think and rethink. It can be hard, but nothing worth learning (or unlearning) comes with pure ease.

The Welsh curriculum suggests that a pupil’s learning journey is different from the next pupil; a unique roadmap that allows for complexity, depth and eventually a personal responsibility of their own learning. This is progressive, though we must take into account that the starting point at age 3 needs the teacher to nurture and ensure a safe space so pupils feel comfortable in their black or brown identity. And for those white pupils, to learn a worldview that is not othered, but by others.




We’ve moved our CCGL courses online!

We’ve moved our Connecting Classrooms through Global Learning courses online – study at your own pace, supported by reflective and participatory live Zoom sessions. Already available online are:

  • Research Skills for the New Curriculum, Level 1 (3 hours of learning)
  • Successful Partnerships Level 2 (6 hours of learning)
  • Creative Contributors Level 2 (6 hours of learning)

Find out more




Our reaction to DFID and FCO merger plans

We are a member of the Wales Overseas Agencies Group (WOAG) and collectively released a statement about the merger below. If you would like to share worries, thoughts or concerns to feed into our future responses on this issue, please email centre@wcia.org.uk or tweet @wcia_wales.




Volunteers’ stories – Volunteering as an essential part of being a responsible global citizen (Jack’s story)

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Helene (European Solidarity Corps volunteer at WCIA/UNA Exchange for the year 2019/2020) selected seven inspiring volunteer stories.

Through UNA Exchange projects Jack saw the Northern Lights in Iceland, led a project in the Czech Republic on a biodynamic farm, rebuilt a river bank in Wales, attended international seminars, delivered trainings and much more. Jack now works for the National Trust in Ipswich.

From volunteering to leading
“I went on to volunteer for a weekend project in the Afan Forest with Nick Murfin, a brilliant Ranger. We spent two days reconstructing a river bank, and at the end of the project Nick and another member of staff suggested I should try the Leader’s Training programme at UNA Exchange – so I did. So, I ended up training to lead projects, and returned to Afan several times with different groups of volunteers. I also volunteered in Reykjavik in Iceland and saw the Northern Lights, led a project in Czech Republic on a biodynamic farm, and went on to train Leaders myself.

I have lots of great memories for my second work project, and first two week project in Wales, back in Afan Forest – it was a great group, with a challenging work project endorsed by the local council, working with Nick again. The work was very physical, as we had to resurrect a large new footpath that had become overgrown and also put in a lot of steps to link this footpath to existing well used ones. It was a project that was very labour intensive but would open up a whole new area of the forest to regular walkers, and it was easy to see a visible result at the end of it – we really felt as though we had left a legacy and got a lot done, and the group were better connected and closer as a result. I stayed in touch and formed friendships with a lot of people on that project – made real connections!

Volunteering is character building 
I have seen a lot more of the world as a result, and travelled more than I probably would have had I not started volunteering.  I think that volunteering definitely changed me for the better – I strive to always be volunteering now, and promote volunteering amongst others. I think it is an essential part of being a responsible, and global citizen, and very much believe in it as an ethos and as part of the bigger picture of society at large. During my volunteering experiences I learnt an awful lot about different nationalities, stereotyping, group dynamics, leading groups and having an open mind. I genuinely think it shaped me into a more mature, grounded individual.

Volunteering encompasses a huge range of roles and responsibilities – it is sad that in current times in the UK volunteering has become more wrapped up with the politics of cutting budgets and keeping people on the road to employment. I believe every politician in every country should volunteer. They should know what hard work, sweat and exhaustion for no monetary gain feels like! I would like to encourage everyone to volunteer at least once – you will have great experiences – it is all character building!

You meet so many people, learn so much and see so much of the world, if you throw yourself into it. I miss it, and hope that others can benefit from its great ethos and character as an organisation – I’d massively recommend it!”




Volunteers’ stories – Volunteering in the USSR before the fall of the Berlin Wall

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Helene (European Solidarity Corps volunteer at WCIA/UNA Exchange for the year 2019/2020) selected seven inspiring volunteer stories.

Did you know that 2020 marks a special anniversary? This year we are celebrating 100 years of workcamps and international volunteering for peace! A hundred years ago, Pierre Ceresole created what is known today as an International Workcamp. The first international voluntary project took place on the former battlefield of Verdun in France in 1920. WCIA/UNA Exchange 2019/2020 European Solidarity Corps volunteers Helene and Loeiza interviewed Chrishan Kamalan, WCIA trustee, for the occasion.

Can you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Chrishan Kamalan, I’m a trustee at the WCIA – Welsh Centre for International Affairs.

We heard that you joined several workcamps. What was your motivation to do it?

My first camp was slightly different. I’d like to talk about that initially. I was very fortunate, looking back, to be able to go to the previous USSR, in 1989, just some four months before the fall of the Berlin wall, in what was what called a Peace Camp. But the principle of the Peace Camp was similar to a workcamp and the workcamp movement. That particular camp was organized by authorities in the USSR for delegates from both Eastern Europe and Western Europe at the time, to learn about each other’s experiences. Little did we know how quickly things would change politically some months later. I still remember people talking at the time, saying that the Berlin wall would stay up for another forty years. But then, that was people around the age of eighteen, which I was at the time, so we were not really informed by life experiences. But it was very much working principles of workcamps. These two groups of people behind the iron wall -iron curtain as it was called at the time- in Eastern Europe and Western Europe did not really have an understanding of each other. It was a good ten years before the internet came about. So information was limited. When I say the word suspicion, it was just a lack of knowledge, from both sides of the culture. And what happened, I can clearly remember going on the workcamp, I was about to go to University and there were people at my University already there on the workcamp. Some involved groups like Amnesty and so on, and they were trying to, in a sensitive way, outline concerns over freedom and human rights issues in various parts of Europe. And it was very much an information exchange.

What did you take from that experience?

That particular experience (Peace Camp in Minsk, Byelorussia) -and I’ll come on to other experiences as well- I think was hugely influential because three or four months later I saw the Berlin wall come down in real-time on television. At the time I couldn’t process it, now we all say that 1989 was such a significant year. I think there’s a course at Cardiff University where one of the international relationships modules focuses on 1989. For me obviously, at the time I just thought “Yes, this is unusual”. But it brought out to me how influential, I’m not saying that particular workcamp had a direct impact, but I was just thinking, especially for those who come from the Eastern European countries and USSR, they had to adapt – very quick change in mindset over that time and likewise, we had to.

The workcamp’s influence was going back to the principles of the international movement about the corporation between former soldiers who had fought each other during the First World War. At that time it was called the cold war and all of that was essentially between the governments. People did not really understand each other and maybe had prejudices and very strong opinions about each other. Being on the workcamp together just demonstrated the commonality of humanity, that we wanted similar aspirations. Maybe we had different views on how to achieve those, but that really had an impact, as I said it was the summer before I went to the University. Going to University I then joined groups like Amnesty International, which at the time were doing a lot of work on the promotion of human rights, especially in this kind of context, the European context. It also led to an interesting internationalism, European affairs… I’ve been fortunate, one of the few people, now I suppose, as a British official who could say that he’s worked in the European Commission for a short amount of time. So all those kinds of things – we are all related I think.

What was the aim of your workcamp?

That particular workcamp, the peace workcamp, was just to foster good relations between people who didn’t really know each other. There was very little information in the public domain about the various countries so going to Russia, seeing structures, I have to say that we were slightly protected maybe from the reality of what was going on at the time. But still, meeting other people, having open discussions, fact discussions, that was really helpful.

If I can answer the same question as well in relation to the workcamp several years later that I led – that was the camp that was known as the 1994 International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, North Wales. It’s an International and annual singing and cultural festival. I think it’s been going since the end of the Second World War, so the timing is interesting as well, so building on those principles of reconciliation. It’s quite funny because there was a very famous opera Italian singer, Pavarotti, whose career – he said, he is deceased – started when he went to the international I one, that was his first big break. There was a relatively small team of about six of us, helping with support during the I one. I remember the team now, there was an American lady, French and German males, myself and my sister. So I can remember particularly well that workcamp of five. We worked I think for two weeks – sorry I think it was a week actually, a week-long festival – just to provide the kind of support needed. Again this was in the mid-nineties, so again during the pre-internet age, and a lot of reliance on information supply as well, so giving out leaflets, that’s the way that people could get around the site. Having international elements so there would be a number of people whose first language was certainly not English or who needed assistance in getting around – the place was quite remote…. So it was a really magical experience. Again, thinking about it, very honoured too. On the last day, the performer who took part in the event went on to be quite famous and even at that time he was quite well know… But you look at these things, but you don’t know at the time… I was in Russia, how privileged you are to be in that kind of environment.

I think you mentioned a third workcamp…

Yes, so the third workcamp I was in, I was relatively older, thirty, possibly the oldest member of the group. I went to Alsace, for a three-week project. But firstly, I want to unpack the Alsace project, but I think this is very relevant in the context of workcamps. If we go back to how they were set up by returning French and German soldiers who had fought in the First World War. But almost immediately after the end of the hostilities, they started to think about meaningful and sensible ways in order to bring communities together. I think the workcamp movement is encapsulated about that.

It’s almost like very early restorative justice system I would say you know, not trying to address the issues of why their countries went to war, or why so many countries went to war, but on the individual level, having witnessed trauma and horrors, building up these relationships so that people avoid that, what’s pertinent about Alsace is it’s an area of land that’s been fought over by these two particular countries in numerous wars going from one to another in terms of ownership and as a result the people who had lived in that area, they can have conflict of interest sometimes because they have been ruled by these different powers so having a workcamp there was particularly important. I was involved in the renovation of a pond. That’s another big fact I wanted to draw up.

I think the movement has been ahead of its time in looking at environmental projects. That was in the 2000s, so that was quite late on, but ever since the onset there has been a big focus on restoration, repair and protection of the natural environment, because I think it just goes to show that those kinds of projects are meaningful to people. That’s why people are very interested in living in villages or even in towns. That’s been a common concern or passion. The reality is that there’s not always resources, human resources to be able to do that, so you have a workcamp element, which is introducing an element of fun. From that particular of 2003, we had at least ten people with European backgrounds and also a French Canadian attendee as well. For me it was really interesting because, I talked about my first experience in 1989, and just over twenty years later, there were people from the modern-day Russia, and seeing how the workcamp ethos had extended, had gone beyond the Western Europe where it was originally designed for, also I think the person from Quebec mentioned that it was something that was certainly familiar with, in Canada.

Just bringing people together in the nicest possible way, in a rough way, no-frills, we had to learn how to quickly get along together. We had to accept that for three weeks the food and so on would be the food that we would prepare, it may not be what people were used to, likewise in terms of accommodation, but we were also determined to put on our own activities, our own sort of amusements within the workcamp. It was striking a balance between hard work but also play as well and enjoying ourselves. I could see because I was really, familiar with that region, which was not that far from Strasburg but in a rural area, that the locals were taking quite a strong interest in what was going on as well. At first they were just questioning because it was the first one I think, that particular renovation scheme, but then they could see what benefits it could bring for the local people but also I think they felt quite honoured to have people coming in from so many different countries with this interest in renovation and environment restoration. And they wanted to just observe and then, take it on. So the important thing, with all workcamps –this is true especially when there’s a project involved-, is once it’s been done,  hopefully links have been built up with the community so that maybe another workcamp can take that forward in the following years but ideally that would just be taken on by the community itself.

Did you see a significant change in the youth you connected with during the workcamp?

Yeah I think I did. I was a bit older so it was probably easier to say that, all were eighteen, but for some people it was their first experience and again it reminded of my first experience going to Russia. First experience of going abroad, they may have had certain ideas about different groups of people but I think that commonality came out quite quickly and yes where people never had sort of experienced other cultures, being able to mingle together, eat food… They broke down barriers.

Last question how much has the workcamp experience influenced your personal life?

It’s been a common theme really. I mentioned at the onset of the interview that I am a trustee at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs, so going on the workcamp with what was then the United Nations Associations International Youth Service was my first exposure to that particular building here, the Temple of Peace, and at that time the WCIA was a sister charity, they were both set up in 1973. Common aims but separate ideals that reflected the fact that the International Youth Service had a stronger association with the United Nations Association then. For me, what that led to was a really interesting sort of international aspect of what per se.

In time I became more involved with the WCIA, I joined them through the legal affairs committee because I’m a qualified lawyer. I became chair of that committee and from that, and the ability to bring speakers along, in conjunction with Welsh Universities and others as well, speakers from all around the world, I became a trustee at the WCIA and I become chair -I was chair from 2016 to 2019- so for me it’s been really interesting in terms of timing. I mentioned 2016 to 2019 and it would be amiss of me to say, today of all days, the day that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, that certainly ideals of international corporation are more important than ever. We may not know what form it takes but again it’s interesting just thinking about the camps themselves, not realizing how important they were in terms of being… As of today, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but I think all of us would want to see a proper sense of international corporation, a lack of distrust amongst various groups.

Coming back to what you asked me – How do you do that? You do that really by actively mingling with different groups of people. Arguably almost being forced to do so. Dare I say, sometimes people go on holiday and they come across different groups of people. But unless you are really engaging with another person, you just see the person as the other. The workcamp is unique in that, being realistic about it, it’s quite basic structure. People have different levels of expectancies about what they want to experience out of it, but I think that’s what the great strength is, because there are some tailored-made projects these days where experience of international work, how can I say, is sometimes slightly protected. Everything is done for the person sometimes. Your hear of schemes where taxis, transport or somebody picks them up from their house, takes them up to and from the airport and take them where they are going to work. The beauty of the workcamp is that you have to do a lot of that yourself.

First, it tests your resilience, it tests your desire. Going back to Russia in 1989, getting a ticket to Moscow was very difficult. I grew up in a town called Neath, which is not far from Swansea. I remember catching the train, and the […] travel shop –which is one of the few shops which has retained their original place, it is in the same location as it was in 1989- and I remember going there and the staff being so helpful explaining how difficult it would be to get a ticket to the USSR for a number of reasons. But that, if anything, made me more determined to go and so when I went I really felt the value of having had to struggle to get the visa and all the clearances. But then going to the workcamp itself, being immersed in a different environment, realizing that in order to make the most of that experience you have to forego some of your, not just your assumptions, but some of your expectancies, and try and work toward a common goal. So what I am saying is I can’t really think of something comparable, in which you are, at a young age, asked to engage in this way. Arguably Erasmus offers let’s say these schemes, but very much for individuals going to a particular country where, say, there’s a dominant culture. The beauty of the workcamp movement is that you’ve got all these different nationalities and cultures and you try to find a common goal.

Coming back to the specific question you’ve asked me, it gave me this passion for internationalism. I mentioned I was fortunate to spend a short amount of time at the European commission but I also traveled to other places. I was able to go to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. My background is Sri Lankan and Tamal. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say unless I was unexposed to the workcamp in my early stage, my life wouldn’t have panned out, and certainly, my interests wouldn’t have panned out than the way than they have.

Thank you so much!




Volunteers’ stories –Calum’s story (The life-changing magic of volunteering abroad)

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Helene (European Solidarity Corps volunteer at WCIA/UNA Exchange for the year 2019/2020) selected seven inspiring volunteer stories.

“Since I was a kid I was always in trouble. I always felt labelled, because when I was younger I had a serious car accident and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. As I got older I was told I had ADHD and I was put on medication for many years. When I finished school and went to college I didn’t want to take the medication any more but I was somehow lost because I was on these drugs for so long – controlling my concentration and lot of other things – and I went downhill. I was getting into fights and a lot of troubling stuff with the law.

I needed to get away
I am not a nasty person and it wasn’t anything malicious. I felt like a really confused young boy and had no idea what was going on in my head. And then I turned sixteen and was getting into worse stuff – trouble with the law, drugs, hanging out with the wrong people. I was doing all sorts of crazy things and my mum was tearing her hair out with worry about me. Basically I needed some guidance and to get away from this life here.

I was prejudiced towards certain nationalities and was listening to older people who I treated as my idols – if they said they didn’t like someone, I didn’t like them either. 

I think this was the reason my youth workers arranged to send me to a project in Italy – to try keep me out of jail. They tried to find somewhere I could go so I could get away and learn something, away from the environment I had at home. I went to north Italy for two weeks to do environmental work in the mountains – we were using all sorts of different tools I have never seen before. It was a real eye-opener and life-changing, because for a 16 year old boy like me, it was the first time being away from home on my own. 

Living in the middle of the forest
I continued to travel and spent two months in Poland and later I did eight months EVS in Lithuania.  The project in Lithuania just sounded like the best for me. I love working in the environment, working in nature and working with people and children as well. My work was the management of a National Park and I was basically like a Forest Ranger, working in the information centre in the park and working for the rangers. My job was maintenance of the park and giving tours to English speaking tourists or arranging boat trips for kids. I shared a house with a Spanish girl; at first she didn’t like me much, because I look quite rough and she didn’t know what to think about me. I felt really dumb about this, because in the first weeks I thought that I was with somebody who doesn’t want to be with me. But later we started to talk and we got on so well we became like brother and sister. Because I am quite a practical guy and like working with tools I was helping her with work which was hard, and she was helping me with language. She was learning Lithuanian and she helped me to learn it, helped me to open a bank account and so on.

When I was over there I went through a time when I really wanted to come home, mainly because of the language barrier. But even so, I had really nice people looking after me and they kept me going. The nature around was absolutely stunning. I am from the city and I was living in the middle of the forest. It was magical – you look around and it is just trees for miles and miles. You can’t hear the cars and you feel you are in different world. It gives you time to think. I like to draw and I was drawing a lot more than I would here because there was no distractions like TV. It was really good to have a break.

Life after Lithuania
When I came back I was much more myself. I feel more spiritual in myself. I know me, I know what I like and how I would like to be treated. So I treat people that way.

I generally felt that I was part of something special, which I never felt before.

Sometimes it was scary but that is what you need. You can’t live in a bubble, you can’t live in the same environment all your life, because you will not be open-minded, you will not learn how to be nice, how to treat people.

I learned about respect, I learned about loyalty. I learned about a lot of things which I thought never really existed when I was a kid.

After Lithuania, in one year I have done many big things, which I would never have done, when I was younger. I got a new place to live, a car and I have my child on the way. For many years I was working with cars and I thought that this could be my profession. In Lithuania I was doing work with the environment and decided that is something I want to do. I didn’t want to spend my time in messy garages any more so I started to do landscaping.  I am doing the work which is more or less the same type of work as in Lithuania. And I really enjoy it.

I used to be a nasty person because of the [issues] I was going through when I was younger and I know that past will never go away but I realised that I need to move forward and look to the future.

I think EVS was the best cure for mental health – better than any drug, any therapist or doctor.

I think the best thing I remember from projects is the feeling of happiness. I wasn’t really happy when I was younger and I thought happiness is doing things like trying drugs. I realised you can have happiness just by doing something, travelling and “living on the road.”

Generally if I haven’t had gone, I would probably be dead or in jail. Seriously.




Volunteers’ stories – Natural heritage conservation at the Great Himalayan National Park

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Helene (European Solidarity Corps volunteer at WCIA/UNA Exchange for the year 2019/2020) selected seven inspiring volunteer stories.

From mid-August through to late-September 2017, UNA Exchange volunteer William joined a group of fellow international volunteers from Italy, Belgium, Canada, South Korea and Russia to take part in a natural heritage conservation work camp at the Great Himalayan National Park in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

“An unforgettable experience of exploring the culture and scenery of the Indian Himalayas!”

The Great Himalayan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated in 1994 in recognition of its outstanding contribution towards biodiversity conservation. The park protects over 1,000 plant species, including many medicinal herbs, 31 species of mammals and 209 species of birds, as well as amphibians, reptiles and insects. Developing understanding and skills in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management, the international volunteers undertook a range of tasks, including tree planting, nursery gardening, collecting medicinal herbs, as well as mural painting and running an eco-club at a local school.

“Not only did I feel hugely welcomed by the local community, but our efforts did not go unnoticed! A local newspaper reported on our work and we were invited to a ‘thank you’ assembly hosted by the local school.”

Intercultural learning was an important component of the experience, with visits organised to the mountain eco villages, a local women’s group, the wood-carved, pagoda structured temples of the Kullu valley and the Dalai Lama’s hometown, Dharamshala. Hiking and attending local festivals also kept participants busy. Staying in a forest guest house, the volunteers were introduced to the traditional Kulvi culture of the area.

“Overall not only have UNA and FSL whet my appetite for India, but offered a wealth of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, providing some invaluable lessons on both foreign travel and day-to-day philosophy!”

William is a medical student and President of his university’s Friends of Médecins sans Frontières. Highly motivated to take part in humanitarian work, a few years ago he volunteered in a regional hospital in Tanzania and he plans to pursue a career in Global Health.




Volunteers’ stories – Teaching in rural Uganda

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June), Helene (European Solidarity Corps volunteer at WCIA/UNA Exchange for the year 2019/2020) selected seven inspiring volunteer stories.

In October 2017, UNA Exchange volunteer, Toby, travelled to East Africa where he taught for several weeks at the Bright Academy, a secondary school located in the village of Nakaswa in Central Uganda.

The Bright Academy is a project started by the Uganda Voluntary Development Association to provide secondary education and skills development for the community of Nakaswa and neighbouring districts. Established in 1995, the school was built through international work camps in collaboration with the local community. Today international volunteers, like Toby, continue to share their skills and experience inside and outside of the classroom, whilst themselves learning about the culture of East Africa.

“I would like to give back to people less fortunate than myself, and learn about the culture and way of life in Africa in person rather than just on seeing it on TV.”

Toby contributed to the communal life of the school by teaching a range of subjects, including Maths, English, Geography, Economics and Business, across four year-groups up to age 16.

“Teaching in the school was so rewarding and the kids’ enthusiasm and desire to learn is inspiring.”

There was also lots of time for exchanging cultures and enjoying sports: foremost, playing rugby and taking part in football matches with the local villages. Toby was hosted by a local family, which provided additional insight into community life in rural Uganda.

“Uganda was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, everyone at the school was very welcoming which made the transition easy. Adapting to the new way of life was slightly challenging but after a few days I was used to it.”

“It was a life changing experience, I’ll never forget it. I didn’t realise how much I took for granted such as running water, a loo, a shower, washing machine etc. Would recommend it to anyone to do at least once in their life, especially in Uganda the people were all so friendly!”

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