Round Square Conference in South Africa

Two Marvelwood student delegates and two faculty members attended the 51st annual Round Square International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Belle Cameron '18 of Marlborough, Massachusetts and Alex Sanchez '19 of Kent, Connecticut, attended the international conference in October, 2017 which brought together over 1000 delegates from around the world. The theme of the conference, Unite to Ignite the Fire Within, highlighted the Round Square IDEALS (internationalism, democracy, environmentalism, adventure, leadership, service) through guest speakers, group discussions, cultural visits, community service, and adventure activities.

Founded in 1966, Round Square is a worldwide network of 168 schools in 40 countries, all of whom share a holistic approach to learning, built around the six IDEALS. In additional to the yearly international and regional conferences, delegates from member schools can participate in global service projects and exchanges at Round Square schools. Marvelwood is one of just 13 US schools, including The Hotchkiss School and Emma Willard, to be members of Round Square.

At the conference, a wide variety of speakers offered inspiring and captivating experiences, and gave the audience a greater understanding of what it means to be global citizens. Lorne Silcas (the 'Big Cat Guy') and William Fowlds, a wild life vet in South Africa, spoke about their experiences in the conservation of African wildlife. Both speakers helps the global audience understand the world-wide environmental and societal implications of wildlife crimes, which threatens to wipe out whole species. Caleb Swanepoel lost a leg in a shark attack in 2015 when he was 20 years old. Today, he is a competitive surfer and drama student who likes the term 'differently-abled'. Throughout his life, his mother had always used the acronym IADOY (It All Depends On You). He believes that his tenacity and positive attitude are born out of his family's tenants of service, leadership, and adventure. Caleb encouraged his audience to create their own stories by having a curious and positive outlook, and 'making friends with their circumstances' in order to rise above them.

Zolani Mahola, the lead singer of the popular South African band Freshlyground shared stories of her childhood in a township, where she was constantly reminded of the segregation and inequality of apartheid. Despite the oppression of the government, she felt the unity of the black community within her township. Zolani urged the audience to value and share our own stories, and performed Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), which was the theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Three students from from the British School Jakarta were awarded the 2017 Kurt Hahn Prize. Through their community initiative, Indonesia UnfoldedChiara Wahsono, Jong Woo Kim, and Samantha Hawes seek to tell meaningful stories that are often silenced in Indonesia. They are currently working on a project called Sinarmatanya (in collaboration with the John Fawcett Foundation) which helps to restore eyesight for people who are blind due to cataracts in underprivileged communities in Indonesia. Funds raised by the students so far will provide 57 patients with life changing surgery. $4000 had been raised since February 2017, and they hope to get to $8000 by World Sight Day on October 12. 

Activities throughout the week of the conference included hiking on Table Mountain, kayaking with penguins, a tour of Cape Peninsula, and Service Day at a township school. Entertainment highlighting the culture and traditions of the delegates was featured throughout the conference, which opened and closed with a parade of flags from each school.

Prior to the conference, the Marvelwood delegation took part in a 'pre-conference' tour, hosted and organized by Penryn College in Nelspruit, South Africa. Led by the amazing Julie Womack of All-Africa Tours, the tour included Elephant Whispers Sanctuary, The Jane Goodall Institute Chimp Eden, Sudwala Caves, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center, and Kruger National Park. After touring Kruger park for the day and seeing a vast array of animals in the wild, the group spent the night in the park at Sutara Rest Camp in a traditional rondavel chalet. A nighttime open-air safari was especially thrilling, when the group observed a lioness sleeping next to the road, a trio of leopards feasting on an impala in a tree, and an elephant walking within arm's distance.  

The 2018 Conference, "Bring Your Difference', is in Canada, hosted by three Round Square schools: Lower Canada College, Appleby College, and Ashbury College; Marvelwood has been assigned to Ashbury College in Ottawa. Any student who will be age 16-19 in 2018 is eligible to apply to be a delegate. More information about Round Square conferences and other opportunities, including international service projects and student exchanges, is on the Round Square section of our website. More photos are on Flickr.