Following World War II, Kurt Hahn founded the United World Colleges movement to help ensure that the atrocities of the two World Wars would never occur again.
The fundamental idea was, that by bringing young people together from many countries and cultures around the world with an aim to bridging the gap between those countries and cultures, this would foster peace, tolerance, and respect for human rights and human dignity, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, religion or other status.
More than 40 young Caymanians who have shared the United World College experience understand that the process of cultural understanding is often not an easy one, but that there are great rewards of friendship, shared stories of family and humanity, and the commonalities of love, loss, joy, dreams and ambitions. As teenagers, we left Cayman to join young people from every corner of the planet in order to pursue an education, not just an academic education but an education in life, an experiential classroom which taught us about co-existing on this fragile planet with people who shared different languages, cultural norms, values and practices.
We began to understand each other based on what we had in common, and learnt very rapidly that for the most part, teenagers all over the world share many similarities indeed.
The many late night discussions, shared by teenagers from around the world, mirrored the most intense of those held in the halls of the United Nations.
We discussed each other’s experiences of race, religion, ethnicity, apartheid in South Africa, and the situation in Israel and Palestine, to name a few. As Caymanians coming from a small peaceful community, we learnt from our friends from Sudan, Ireland, Northern India and Pakistan, the terrible human costs of discrimination and lack of respect for all people as being equal.
We witnessed the shattered lives that they left behind, in countries torn apart by discrimination and hate. We learnt first-hand the value of creating a world where peace and equality were the hallmark of designing a safe place to live and thrive as human beings.
Whilst we learned from others, the UWC experience helped us to reflect on Cayman’s strengths and we all returned home valuing the quiet, safe comforts of our beloved country, and the open minds and hearts of those in our community who maintain an equally hospitable approach to both the less known and more familiar.
We believe that traditional Caymanian values include hospitality toward others, generosity of spirit, and kindness as well as sharing our Christian heritage of God’s love.
We also believe that Caymanians do not value another person based on standards of discrimination. For all that we have learnt as Caymanians through our international and multi-cultural education, we understand the tremendous importance of equality for all, and working toward a common understanding of humanity.
Our experience, through UWC, in seeing first-hand the results of discrimination and cultures of fear, compels us all to accept nothing less than a Cayman that upholds the rights and dignity of every member of our society to the fullest extent.
We believe in equality for all persons in the Cayman Islands including the disabled, children, and the elderly, as well as those persons who are of a different ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation and physical or mental ability. We trust that the country, which sent its first students to United World Colleges 25 years ago to learn in a multi-cultural environment with others from around the world and bring home lessons of peace and international understanding, will now endeavour to do its best to ensure that the rights and dignity of every member of the Cayman Islands society are upheld.
United World Colleges (Cayman Islands) National Foundation