People of RCN

December 3, 2019

Hannah Mulbah (RCN ’17- present)

2019-12-03T12:19:23+00:00December 3rd, 2019|

For Hannah Mulbah (Liberia), joining UWCRCN is not merely a matter of getting a quality high school education. It is about breaking free from the negative stereotyping that she grew up with due to her disability. Hannah was five years old when, one morning, she fell on the ground and couldn’t get up by herself. Her parents took her to hospital, where she stayed for around a month, with no change in her condition. Her legs and arms were paralyzed, and she couldn’t walk. Her father realized that he couldn’t afford to pay the hospital bills any more. Then her Aunt, who lived in a rural area, offered to take Hannah home with her. Her parents agreed that she could live with her aunt until she was able to walk again – this is something that happened 5 years later, at the age of 10. It was not only the condition of her body but also the lack of support from the surroundings that made it difficult. “I had to learn to walk like a baby, trying to walk and fall, get up and try again. My bones were too weak to support me walking. It took me five years to be able to walk without falling now and then. If my aunt didn’t take me, who would have covered for a bill in an institution for such a long time?”

Once she regained her ability to walk, Hannah was determined that she was not going to stay home while her siblings were at school. ‘You cannot do this’ was something she would often hear. Even though it could make her sad and heavy-hearted, it did not stop her from going to school. “I kept trying to walk despite the pain I would get from falling. The long time it took me to reach somewhere didn’t make me give up! The most difficult part was to convince the school that I wanted to learn. The teachers, when they saw my wounds in my knee and arms, and me falling repeatedly, told me to go home and stay there until I get well, but I refused to do so.”

Hannah joined UWCRCN through the Survivors of Conflict Program. She has completed the Foundation year and is now in the first year of the IB program. She is actively doing physical exercises and training under the careful guidance of Physiotherapist Guro Hjelle Aamot at Red Cross Haugland Rehabilitation. This has helped her to build up stamina, strength and mobility. The girl who used to be told to stay at home due to her physical limitations while walking, now is taking part in out-door activities such as kayaking, hiking and skiing. “When I do these activities, I feel happy because in the first place, I didn’t have these opportunities before. I used to not be included when people play games like soccer and the like, with me just watching. Now, I am included, and it helps me to find my strength. At first, I was scared to get into the kayak, but now, I can jump into it as fast as I can and start paddling. It boosts my confidence when I see myself doing that. I feel good about myself and become more comfortable among other people.”

In summarizing her experience at UWCRCN, Hannah says it is a place that is giving her independence. She is confident that at the end of her 3 years stay, she will leave the College with a clear vision of her future. “My passion is to see myself finish my education and to do what other people without disability can do. I want to feel human like everybody else. I want to have that feeling and passion about life. I do not want to be limited by my disability . I want to challenge myself with whatever is coming to my path in life.”

Written by Genet Ashebir

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October 1, 2019

Leonie Koning (RCN ’00 – present)

2019-10-01T09:54:18+00:00October 1st, 2019|

Leonie Koning has been the UWC Red Cross Nordic Admissions Coordinator for twenty years. In essence this means that she has played a central role in enabling 2,000 students to come to our College, from the total of 2,500 we’ve welcomed since the College opened.

She receives the annual nominations from National Committees from all over the world and, once nominated, students are approved by the Admissions Team at the College. It falls to Leonie to be the bearer of good news, writing letters – or these days, emails – to the accepted candidates confirming that they have been given a place. Receiving their excited emails in return, it’s not hard to understand why Leonie says, “I think I might have the best job at the College!” It sometimes happens, when Leonie bumps into RCN alumni, that they tell her that receiving the confirmation notification is still clear in their memories, a life-changing moment. After sending out the news of their acceptance, Leonie will follow-up by sending out information, helping students and their parents with practical questions, guiding those who need help through the visa application bureaucracy and, with the rest of the Admissions Team, physically getting them to the College.

She still loves her job, describing how fascinating and humbling it is to hear from young people on the verge of a major change in their lives. Some come from not so far away, and some come not really knowing where Norway is on the map. Some come from big cities and others from refugee camps, conflict zones and remote villages.

A few years ago Leonie’s house in Flekke burned down. As it was a wooden house, the fire raged through it quickly. Within a couple of hours everything she and her family owned was reduced to ashes. For anyone this would have been a traumatic experience, but Leonie says she was helped by remembering the difficult lives of students whose lives were transformed by that letter of acceptance. Reflecting on this strengthened the realization that most things are more important than possessions.

Wishing you many more years as Admissions Coordinator, Leonie.
Thank you from all colleagues and students – present and past.

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September 23, 2019

Tecber Ahmed Saleh (RCN ’05-’07)

2019-09-23T06:29:02+00:00September 23rd, 2019|

The Sydney Morning Herald recently interviewed RCN alumna and Western Sahara activist Tecber Ahmed Salah.

The article begins,

When you’re from Western Sahara, small talk can be tough. There is no warming up with the weather, or polite chit-chat about your flight.

It’s straight to the heavy stuff, says Tecber Ahmed Saleh.

She is a national of a country most people don’t know exists, and which was partially annexed by its northern neighbour, Morocco, in 1975.

When Saleh meets new people, she frequently finds herself launching straight into explanations about her very identity. “We just assume everybody knows about us. We are supported by international law,” she tells me. “But whenever I am outside, when I present myself as Western Saharawi, I get, ‘What is that country? Where is it?’ Then you end up, instead of talking about yourself, you are talking about the history, the background, the geography … you are suddenly in a conflict area.”

Follow this link to read the full article.

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August 5, 2019

John Lihasi (RCN ’14-’16)

2019-08-05T08:45:08+00:00August 5th, 2019|

Reflections on a Return to Norway.

There couldn’t be a better inspiration than sitting at the UWC Norway office while writing this. Three years after graduating from UWC RCN, Norway feels like a second home to me. I have been here during the last three summers, for Norwegian language courses and internships at a renewable energy firm and for volunteering at Startuplab. These activities would probably surprise my former colleagues as they would have been aware of my zeal to join the mainstream aerospace engineering industry.  The story behind this transformation is, to me the embodiment of my UWC experience.

I grew up in Otiende village in Soy, a smallholder farmers’ locality in Kakamega county, Kenya. Like any other kid, I enjoyed the adventurous exploits of growing up in the countryside. I had thoughts of leaving the country to study and pursue other dreams, but the practical circumstances were less likely to allow this. Having been lucky to receive information about an opportunity, I was able to slowly make the dream a reality: I attended a national high school in Kenya through which my classmate and I were able to lead a drive for a rural electrification project in a neighbouring locality. I also completed an exchange programme in the United States where I learned about UWC and chose to apply.

The stay at UWC RCN was fulfilling. I learned more about myself and the world in those two years. I learned to appreciate other peoples’ stories and, from them, shape my future career and change my prospects. I have always wanted to use my educational experience to help unite people for peace and a sustainable future. Currently I am at the University of Oklahoma and have completed my third year of an Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering degree.

The greatest highlight of my ‘life after RCN’ is  submitting to change. I had different educational and career dreams after graduation. However, the unspoken issue is whether I will be able to reconcile those dreams with my redefined values. Allowing myself to adjust for example, and settling in a new place and tailoring my career path to effectively suit my passion and desire for change was the best decision that I have made.  I am now planning to further my education and start a career in sustainable engineering with a focus on renewable energy development. Here I will be best suited to make an impact and influence change leading to the attainment of sustainable development goals.

I would like to think of my life and achievements as testimony to how access to information can empower an individual. The UWC experience has played a central part in opening up this information to me and it has provided an environment in which to grow the ideas for change. I am so grateful for the family, friendship, love, kindness, mentorship and drive that I have received through joining the movement. I believe the world will eventually be a better place when we continue to use the acquired drive to learn, cooperate, advance change and inspire others.

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