People of RCN

Simon Sizwe Mayson (RCN’07)

2020-11-24T15:02:35+01:00November 24th, 2020|

Simon Mayson and Chann de Villiers on the main stairwell in Troyeville House.(Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Being awarded the scholarship to attend Red Cross United World College in 2005 blew on the changemaker fire sparking within me, and it continues to burn today. At UWC I was immersed in a microcosm of the world and granted considerable freedom to initiate and lead projects at only 17 years old. Furthermore, the experiential learning opportunities I had at college enabled me to put the fire to good use.

Though many UWCers continue studying abroad after the International Baccalaureate, I decided to return to my homeland, South Africa, and ‘relearn’ it following this UWC experience. And, while many first year students around me were floundering in their newfound freedoms, UWC enabled me to initiate projects that harnessed the changemaker potential of hundreds of University of Cape Town volunteers.

Fast forward through several years of ‘adulting’ and I’m working with other changemakers to enable a wellbeing economy in an area we’re calling ‘Makers Valley’, in a downtrodden part of inner city Johannesburg. In partnership with the US Consulate, British Council, Engineers Without Borders, Nando’s and local NGOs and developers, we mainly support creative and social entrepreneurs (changemakers) with seed funding, space and community. The aim is to enable the neighbourhood, like UWC a microcosm of the world (or at least Africa), as the city’s ‘”heart of social and creative enterprise”. But in our aims to grow collective wellbeing in the world’s most unequal country, in the last two years Makers Valley partners have worked on a wide range of projects from the establishment of a fledgling community currency and swap shops, food parcels during the COVID-19 lockdown, edible gardens, youth employment and entrepreneurship expos, safety and security initiatives, and more.

The latest project is the Troyeville House, a set of buildings dating to the gold rush that founded Joburg, and in surprisingly good nick. The property consists of an 11-bed mansion and gardens, chapel, hall, sanctuary, coach house converted into flats, and vacant land we’re planning to showcase tiny houses on. We are seeing a diverse group of changemakers joining the community as long- and short-term residents, as well as undertaking work for the greater good in the neighbourhood and beyond.

I’m currently doing a lot of introspection as part of the action research PhD thesis I’m writing, and I frequently think of my time at Red Cross Nordic in relation to my current work. As we set up and grow the Troyeville House as a Changemakers Residence, I sometimes wonder if I’m secretly trying to live my UWC experience in perpetuity!

We would love to welcome visitors and residents from the extended UWC family! Please get in touch with Chann and Simon through the website  🙂

Archives by category

Olivier Sebastiaan Roekens (RCN 2019)

2020-10-19T12:10:46+01:00October 19th, 2020|

After having spent most of my summer traveling around Asia visiting friends and taking some time to reflect upon my UWC experience, I started studying Liberal Arts and Sciences at Leiden University College in The Hague.

Here I got involved in the UNICEF Student team, where I spend most of my time organizing different events ranging from movie nights to lectures, to raise awareness about our ongoing projects. Currently we are also raising money for the Maman Lumière project to prevent malnutrition in Burundi.

Since then I have also become youth ambassador for an NGO called ONE, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty and preventable diseases by 2030. This year we will be focusing on vaccination programs as well as the Dutch parliament elections of next year, to lobby for an increase of the international development budget.

One year after graduation I have come to realize that the UWC-life doesn’t end when we leave the Flekke bubble, it is only the start of another great adventure. My previous involvement in the Nature & Youth EAC and many other groups have definitely shaped me, and I have become more aware of what I want to do in the future. For next year I plan to major in Governance, Economics and Development, after which I hope to continue working with international organizations. To continue to work towards a better world in which everyone, in which everyone has equal opportunities.

Archives by category

Daniel Hallundbæk (RCN ’17-’19)

2020-09-08T09:53:19+01:00September 8th, 2020|

After graduation from RCN I had decided to take a gap year, with my only plan being working and visiting friends. But when everyday life began after RCN, it was very anticlimactic.

Slowly the days however started looking brighter, I could appreciate my job as a handicap assistant more and I had decided to study glass blowing in Sweden. So things were falling in place.

Then I left for Costa Rica, to be with one of my best friends from RCN, which was amazing. Sadly, I had to leave quite abruptly in the beginning of march due to Corona. But it wasn’t all negative, because while being in Costa Rica I also realized all the great opportunities I had in Denmark.

So I came back home and started working with a political artist (Jens Galschiøt) I meet during a presentation at RCN. Working with him included helping with happenings (such as demonstrations and exhibitions) and learning his sculpturing techniques.

Over the summer I also became a part of a Dutch program called “Bright Minds for Covid 19” which was awesome and lead me to a volunteering position in SMILFONDEN, (the smile foundation), which is an organisation that brings joy to terminally ill kids at the main hospital in Copenhagen. I’m going to start there in January where I am going to lead various creative workshops with the kids.

Over the summer I once again decided on going to University, so I have taken another gap year to apply for design academies. I am currently on a Danish boarding school (Folk high school) working with design and improving my chances of getting in to design academies.

Archives by category

Angelika Love (RCN ’09-’11)

2020-06-03T12:11:48+01:00June 2nd, 2020|

Escaping the Echo-Chamber During Lockdown:
About her road to starting a Podcast on Social Integration

I consider myself lucky to have experienced very little loneliness in my life. I have felt alone at times, yes. But lonely? Whenever my inner commentator gets too loud in my personal echo-chamber, I switch on the radio – admittedly, the BBC and German radio serve as little more than a diversion, but an effective one, nonetheless. Lately, as the airwaves have become unbearably saturated with, first, Brexit and then Corona, radio has given way to podcasts and audiobooks. During lockdown, for me that has meant not only listening to but also making audio programmes.

Radio has always fascinated me. When I recently cleared out my childhood bedroom, I re-discovered an old cassette tape featuring the product of an afternoon’s play with girlfriends: a home-recorded radio programme – which, lacking a cassette player, I have yet to listen to again. Radio works, in part, because it is such an intimate medium. The truly skilled presenters sound as though they are speaking to us directly. But during a lockdown, radio and podcasts have gained another significance: they add to our cavernous echo-chambers the experiences and voices of others.

To me, the most significant contribution of UWC is that it gives faces to global affairs. Climate change, colonialism, religious conflicts, refugee crises, war – all become inextricably bound to names, voices, and faces. At face value, this will be rather obvious to anyone currently studying at a UWC. What surprised me, though, – now with 10 years hindsight – is how the friendships forged, the stories and experiences shared at RCN, were first and foremost seeds that have since germinated, taken root, and grown into something more consequential. They have transformed from stand-alone experiences into a network of attitudes and values stretching far beyond Flekke Fjord and UWC. As a social psychologist, I study how contact experiences with people from other backgrounds (ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, etc.) shape not only the relationship with a specific friend or colleague, but also translate into attitudes towards entire groups of strangers. Our specific experiences as UWC students are so powerful because they shape whom we trust, how anxious and uncertain we feel when faced with unfamiliar groups, and our stance towards multi-cultural societies more generally.

Naturally, the power of social relationships across group divides is not limited to the UWC experience. Everyone you know will be affected in their thoughts, emotions and behaviour by the people in their social network: friends, colleagues, neighbours, family members. In the era of a global pandemic, depriving ourselves of social contacts serves to protect our own and our communities’ health, but in many cases lockdown also limits our social contacts to a handful of similar others. This enforced homogeneity risks reinforcing social divisions, polarization and conflict which, in the long run, poses no small threat to the health of societies, either. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to explore alternative means of engaging with stories beyond the familiar and with people outside of our echo-chambers.

In 2018 and 2019, I gave in to my fascination with radio and recorded a handful of conversations with people who are engaged in building bridges across societal fissures: between rich and poor, people with and without disabilities, Black and White. These ‘social integration practitioners’ introduced me, an academic studying diversity and integration, to many innovative and hands-on ways in which we can begin to shrink our echo-chambers and broaden our social networks. I spoke to Paula Raubenheimer, a gardener in Stellenbosch, who told me about the unlikely community of men coming together to dig wells and fell trees in her community garden; to Dr Helen Willis, an auditory neuroscientist whose deafness can teach us about communicating better; and to Aneel Brar, COO of a maternity clinic offering care to women in rural Rajasthan, to name but a few.

The result of these conversations is the podcast Angelika Love’s Conversations, which I published in early May. It is a podcast that can help us use lockdown to explore means of building healthier societies in the post-lockdown future. But, equally importantly, it is a podcast that will introduce listeners to people whose stories and experiences often go untold, and who, I hope, can make your social experiences during lockdown a little less bland.

To some of us experiencing lockdown, it will seem that, when we started closing the blinds, our already cavernous echo-chambers quickly became a whole lot emptier. The social isolation and loneliness many are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic, mean that our own opinions and world-views have started ricocheting off the walls of these echo-chambers – more noisy, more self-assured, more lonely than ever, unperturbed by debate and different points of view. I think that this is a time when many of us are craving more and better conversations. UWCers know that the people we encounter, the stories and experiences we share with one another, not only have the power to make us feel less alone. They also help us relate to those on the other side of a social divide and to the many strangers we are yet to meet. In the era of echo-chambers, this is quickly becoming more relevant than ever.

Angelika Love (RCN 09-11) recently completed her PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. You can listen to her podcast here and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other platforms:

Archives by category