It Took A Global Village To Get Her Home
How One Student’s Journey Home Demonstrates The Power of the UWC Movement.
By Lau Carone, UWC Argentina National Committee volunteer, UWC International Board member, CNC Vice Chair, Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa Alum.
Two days ago I received this picture from a fellow national committee volunteer from Paraguay. She had just dropped off one of "our kids", who our national committee had selected to attend UWC, at the border with Argentina.
The student is a first year at UWC Atlantic. And since UWC Atlantic joined the many other UWC schools forced by the current COVID-19 situation to close their campuses and assist students on their (sometimes very long) journey home, she too embarked on a journey that illustrated something very beautiful to me, in this otherwise not-so-beautiful situation.
The student’s journey back home to Argentina came off to a rocky start: her flight from London to Buenos Aires, which was the last flight to leave the UK for Argentina, was cancelled. But in this seemingly hopeless situation, we watched as the UWC community sprang into action.
The effort to bring her home started with Ezequiel, an Argentinian alum, rushing to Gatwick airport to support our kid and help her talk to embassy officials, although no immediate solution was found there. Then, the amazing UWC Atlantic staff, Claudia, Valentina, Elena and Magda joined the group effort. They were by the student’s side the whole way, and went above and beyond to find options to get her home via Paraguay - before they also shut their borders. Then came Hugh, Board member of UWC Atlantic and the UWC Great Britain National Committee, who kindly hosted our kid until she could board a new flight the next day. On 18 March, the student landed in Paraguay after a short stopover in Chile. From there, the next leg of her journey began. As there is no more public transport crossing the Paraguay-Argentina border, nor flights from neighbouring countries, Argentinian residents can only enter Argentina by walking across the border on foot. So, the amazing UWC Paraguay National Committee made arrangements for Carolina, one of their volunteers, to drive our student from the airport to the border, with just enough time to spare before curfew. In summary, it took a global village to get our kid home.
When this picture was taken, our kid was crossing the border to be reunited with her family, who had driven 2000km in 3 days (including a failed trip to Buenos Aires airport) to meet her.
This picture made me cry, because I know it depicts just one of many moments happening right now in different corners of the world. She's one of many kids flying back without knowing if they'll make it home, who have said farewell to their school community (their family) in a rush, who are stuck between borders and who, despite everything, have shown amazing maturity and resilience during such a difficult time.
I know I'm just one of many who have spent the past days sleepless, trying to make sure kids are safe in the midst of this scary pandemic. This is just one of the many moving stories I've been a part of or heard of this week, but there are so many more: Schools, UWC International, national committees, alumni, volunteers and families across the world are coordinating efforts, sharing best practices, hosting, tutoring, donating air miles or buying last minute flights, providing crisis emotional support, making sure a kid gets released from a detention centre at the border, and so on. None of us could do it on our own, but together we're making incredible things happen.
This past week has reminded me how very special our movement is. I don't think a single mission statement can even begin to define the uniqueness of what we have. Whatever it is, it's fueled by this tremendous love that knows no borders, it's holding our movement together and allowing us to make the impossible possible.
We still have a lot of kids to bring home. Some of them won't be able to return for the time being. Some are stranded at the border. We're all exhausted and scared. But we know we have each other and we trust that we'll get through this together.
I'm so, so grateful for all the amazing people at the schools, the UWC International Office, the national committees and the wider UWC community who are (often anonymously) going above and beyond to keep our kids safe.
I'm so grateful to be part of this movement :)