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A Community Rises: UWC Thailand’s Project Independence

In a year rife with global challenges, it has been hard to find moments that inspire hope and unity amidst the chaos. For UWC Thailand, the disruptivity of 2020 was compounded by an existential funding crisis here at home. In mid-January, the school’s founder made a heart-breaking call to the board chair, “alternative funding would be necessary as of June 2020 to keep the UWC Thailand dream alive.” 

By The Phuket News

Sunday 27 September 2020, 10:00AM

The situation went from bad to bleak with campus closures, tambon lockdowns and businesses closing. Yet through it all, our amazing community did not sway in their belief that UWC Thailand is a school worth saving. 

Not long after we learned of the funding challenge, we began talking to a small group of parents, brainstorming what it would take to purchase the school’s land and buildings. In one of those early conversations it was pointed out that the Chinese character for crisis is a combination of two other characters – “danger” and “opportunity” – and so here amongst the danger, we found our opportunity. 

In a matter of just a few weeks, a small group of parents took up the mantle of humble heroes as they worked with the school’s leadership and the team at Thanyapura to create the broad outlines of a deal to purchase the land and buildings on behalf of the school’s foundation. Fundraising is what we needed and that is exactly what we got.

To make the purchase and provide a two-year cushion for scholarships and operations, we needed the equivalent of US$10 million. We launched a giving campaign open to both loans and donations and we managed to raise the full amount in just over three weeks.

How, against all odds, did we succeed? UWCT is a different kind of school. Biasedly, we think it’s exactly the kind of school the world needs right now. Our community is undoubtedly special, drawn by our commitment to a progressive education that’s rooted in timeless values like collaboration, kindness, integrity, curiosity, open-mindedness, and resilience. No other education movement on the planet combines a world-class IB education with global scholarships, and a commitment to making the world a more peaceful and sustainable place.

The parents who donated countless hours, expertise, support and/or money, did it not out of convenience or financial gain, but because UWC Thailand is raising their children in an environment where they feel a sense of belonging, while also becoming what the world needs; caring thinkers, with a side of grit, who are willing to take action.

More than any year before, when all the odds seemed stacked against us, our community doubled down on their belief in what we do at UWCT. They heeded our call and they came with their savings, their investments, their salaries, their skills, and their friends. They came because what we do is different in a way that matters, in a way that warrants the opportunity to thrive.

Attending school, once an expectation, is now a gift our students are grateful for each day.  

If you were to step on our campus today you would see shining eyes (smiles hidden behind facemasks) and hear laughter and chatter from happy students excited to be right where they are – learning and enjoying an oasis of calm in an otherwise chaotic world.

By Jason McBride,
UWC Thailand Head of School

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