The Aurora Dialogues Online event was organized on October 14, 2021 and featured the presentation of the three 2021 Young Aurora finalists’ projects and a panel discussion that allowed the panelists to present their perspective on the unique ways humans think, process and create, as well as to ponder the importance of encouraging young people to put their skills and talents to good use, making the world a better place. Launched in 2017 and presented by the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative in partnership with UWC International, Teach For All and the African Leadership Academy, the Young Aurora program celebrates its 5th anniversary this year.
Hannah Tümpel, Deputy Executive Director of UWC International, opened the event and gave the floor to Veronika Zonabend, impact investor and social entrepreneur, Co-Founder of RVVZ Family Foundation and Founding Partner and Chair of the Board of Governors of UWC Dilijan College in Armenia, for welcome remarks. While congratulating the 2021 Young Aurora finalists, Mrs. Zonabend noted: “We really hope that with this project, we will help young people to find their passion and, first of all, to learn about themselves, [about] what they are willing to do with their lives. Our finalists have passion, they have talent, and I deeply believe that they will become bridge-builders.”
This was followed by the presentation of the three 2021 Young Aurora finalists’ projects, with teams from UWC Atlantic, UWC East Africa and Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA (WK UWCSA) outlining their plans to address a humanitarian issue in their schools’ communities. The members of the Selection Jury had an opportunity to ask their questions and later to retire to make the decision on the winner. The Jury included 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate Mirza Dinnayi, Co-Founder and Director of Air Bridge Iraq; 2016 Aurora Humanitarian Syeda Ghulam Fatima, General Secretary of Bonded Labor Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF); Maria Ines Kavamura, UWC International Board member; Alice Petrossian, UWC Dilijan Full Board Member and Aurora Prize Selection Committee Member John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry.
While the Jury deliberated, the panel discussion titled “Why We Need All Kinds of Minds” began. Moderated by Jaime Nieman, Global Politics Teacher at the Eastern Mediterranean International School, it featured Musimbi Kanyoro, Chair of the UWC International Board, and Zac Merida, 2021 UWC Dilijan Alumnus and student of Sciences Po Campus du Havre, France.
When pondering the question of what drives her to converse and to communicate with people who are so different from her, Musimbi Kanyoro, Chair of the UWC International Board, was happy to share a personal insight. “What inspires me is what I see in others, something that I don’t have. And I want to be able to learn from that. In people who are different from me, I see enrichment for me, and I also want to share a bit of who I am, how I think about things, what my experience has been. When we bring all this together, it really widens our scope of understanding of both who we are and the world in which we live,” said Dr. Kanyoro.
As a representative of the younger generation, Zac Merida, student of Sciences Po Campus du Havre, France, highlighted the matter of modern education and the way it shaped the minds of students everywhere. “I think one of the major revolutions in education recently is what is typically called the liberal arts. It’s this idea that students gain a lot from being exposed to different areas of knowledge. Obviously, one of the criticisms of liberal arts is the idea that you become a jack of all trades but a master of none. But in my experience, with different fields, while they are talking about different phenomena and different things about the world – and ultimately, the best manifestation of this is the pandemic, – you can’t separate these things entirely,” noted Zac Merida.
The event moderator Jaime Nieman, Global Politics Teacher at the Eastern Mediterranean International School, brought up the issue of enabling diversity of thought in the same space and in the same place. “[There is] a universal set of experiences that makes us all human. We can all understand that humans have a shared experience, and culturally, when we get to spend time with others that are different from us, we transform. We connect in new ways. But sometimes, diversity of thought, and ideologies, and beliefs, becomes sort of a territory of tension,” explained Mr. Nieman who also thanked the speakers for joining the discussion.
In the final part of the event, Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA (WK UWCSA) team was named the winner of 2021 Young Aurora with their Seed of Hope project that proposes a solution to empower young people at the Malindza refugee camp by creating a youth hub that serves as an online education center and social space. The students received a $5,000 grant for the project’s further development.