UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
At UWC Mostar, the co-curricular program is more than simply counting CAS hours: it forms the center of a student’s experience, structuring the rhythms of the week, bringing students out of their minds for a bit: into the space of creation, into the body of action, and into the engagement with others. All students are required to write a set of “CAS reflections” over their two years, so we’ve selected a few below to give you a more personal sense of the lived experience of the co-curricular program in Mostar.
Service CASes are activities with the community in which students get to contribute to their surrounding. Service CASes require students to devote themselves extensively and require real commitment. Each Service CAS has one or two second-year leaders and a faculty supervisor. Planning meetings happen once a week to which attendance is also mandatory, as well as the actual sessions. Planning meetings help the Service CAS to set goals and monitor the indicators of their achievements. Self-evaluation, as a group and individually, are of major importance as it helps the group reducing uncertainties and assisting decision-making to improve the CAS as much as possible. Service CASes are a great opportunity to learn about different local communities, explore the context of our school, and develop new skills. As in most of our Service CASes we are working with local institutions, it is of utmost importance that the attendance is regular and our contribution valuable.
The day has come. Today I attended my last dog shelter’s session. I can’t say it wasn’t emotional. I was afraid it will be harder than it actually was though. Surprising how attached one can become to animals. I never would have assumed so about myself initially. Probably, this is one thing I’ll always remember from this CAS, and from UWC in general; it’s not just human beings we are connected to, but the world in its entirety. I can say unequivocally, that this has been the right CAS choice for me. Whereas ecology has been more about different aspects of preserving the world, through the dog shelter I finally felt connected to it. I’ll definitely check it up once again. This time, as an alumni of the United World College in Mostar.
Holy Family was new CAS for me this year. I was in SOS Kindergarten last year where children do not have health issues so in beginning I was scared how will I fit into Holy Family and will I be able to help them. It all changed to positive when I was introduced to children and their problems, in short period of time I learned how to have patience and through games and training help to them. With help of educators we managed to improve performance of Severino and Mile that were assigned to me this year. Their improvement made me very happy and learned me to appreciate everything I have in life. At last session of Holy Family our educator said that she is very proud of us and work we did, and that we are more than welcome to come back regardless school to talk and cheer up children.
During this month I visited the kindergarten group once and different workshops other two times. In the kindergarten group I had a special experience. The group of us students were there and as always tried to play with these little kids and entertain them as we could. We played with puzzles, car toys and drew with them. None of them usually talks a lot, three children talk at all. In this way it is actually very challenging to communicate with them and understand what they want to show us or tell us. In the middle of playing, one little boy said his first ever word since he began to attend this special needs kindergarten. The kindergarten nurse that always takes care of them was shocked and surprised, as well as we were when she explained to us that what just happend is a big thing for all of them! I felt so lucky that I could witness such a moment and at the same time proud of that little boy. However, the word he pronounced was rather hard to comprehend, but he smiled immediately when he saw us excited. I will remember this moment for a long time. In the art workshop part of the center that we visited again I met some really nice people. It amazes me how honest they are, simple and happy to be able to talk to and hang out with someone. All of them welcome us very excited and hug and kiss us on the entrance. One girl that is 17 years old and comes from the city of Konjic in BiH, showed us some rooms in the center where their products are situated. She showed us the „girl room“ with a lot of jewerly and bags that they created. As I usually like every kind of art it was very interested for me. I spent a half an hour helping one boy in his twenties to draw himself playing football. He was trying hard to communicate with me and tell me something about his drawing, but it was hardly comprehensive. I was sad being unable to understand him, but I realized when he wanted me to help him draw some parts of the football field which I did and which made him very happy, so it made me happy too. I am still under the impression of how gentle, kind, benevolent and cheerful these young people are, despite their difficulties. They are very grateful and appreciate every moment spent with them and are truly one of the nicest people I have met. I am thankful for this CAS made me also appreciate little things in life much more than before and thaught me a lot about people and humaneness.
One very interesting thought that came to my mind was how in BiH the distinction between financial backgrounds and classes is so different than back home in Egypt. As I am studying class in my Anthropology course, I was reading a lot about how people have ways to distinguish classes and I was reflecting on how I myself have ways of 'reading' class and background on people. I realized, however, that it is very different here in BiH. Marija and her family, although they live under harsh conditions in the refugee camp, looked like an average Family to me. If I would meet them in a different context, I probably would not be able to imagine the conditions they live in. This made me very aware of our presence in her home and what it might mean to her. Although we are meant to be visiting the camp as part of a service to the people there, I found that we were actually hosted in this person’s house where she offered food and company to us, but we were not actually giving anything back. I mean, I am sure further on the year we will be helping the camp, but it is very important for me that we are all aware of the fact that we are do not have anything special to provide and how much of this service CAS is actually for us compared to how much it is for the people we are 'helping'.
We visited another home, of a man called Daniel. Although I felt a little uncomfortable that we were so many people in his small house, he was extremely welcoming and seemed very happy that we were there. Unfortunately we only had one local speaker, the CAS leader, Tamara, who tried to translate the stories he was telling us.
I am very excited about the Pape (handmade socks) selling action, using the website and all. I really think this is one of the areas where I can contribute well to the CAS and I think it will be good for us to gather information about the place and share these people’s stories with a wider audience. I hope that will be able to accurately represent them and to create a successful means for them to sell their products.
Since it is autumn and Mostar is full of colorful leaves, we decided to celebrate this season by porposing to the children to do a dry leaves collage. Hence we collected many colorful leaves and we headed to the orphanage with blank papers, colors and liquid glue. The kids liked this activity a lot: there were a lot of them, especially the smaller ones, and we helped them through the process of creating their own collage, especially when they had to glue. Looking after so many kids requires a lot of group work, because each of us has to be responsible for a couple of them (and being responsible for such a young, energetic creature is never easy!). I think that this is the main challenge that we faced, because even newer members of the group were given some responsibility. However, the session went on very smoothly and the kids appeared to be very happy.
It was a different activity from what we usually do because it required careful supervision: usually we try to use simple material with which kids cannot get dirty or dirty the surroundings, but we liked so much the idea of the leaves and we had no choice but using liquid glue to make it work. This was quite challenging, but the final result was absolutely rewarding! The activity was new also for the kids, and they were very happy to interact with us when creating their little piece of art: I think that staying close to us was, overall, the thing that they enjoyed the most and I am very happy that we managed to do this for them!