Having a diverse outlook and exposure to many different cultures is part of what makes life at SISD so special. However, what good would all this multiculturalism be if we didn’t extend a helping hand to those in need?
Recently this was beautifully embodied in the story of our student Cedric Walti-Drazal. A young Swiss-American child who has lived in China and Paris, he moved to Dubai in 2017 and has been in SISD in the bilingual French and English program since then.
Cedric recently took two trips to Zambia and Myanmar where he participated in humanitarian work with his parents, and he sat down with us in an interview about his experiences.
“My mom and dad used to work in Africa and Asia, they are very sensitive to countries that need help,” Cedric said of why he traveled to Zambia. “My mom’s job was to help women grow their own businesses in Africa and Latin America. In 2018, my dad joined Fathers Kids Camping group in Dubai and Vahid – the ‘boss’ of the group – came up with the idea for the trip to Zambia. We decided to join the trip and my mom even helped organize it.
“A group of 25 adults and 25 children traveled from Dubai to work with Mothers without Borders, an NGO that built a school many years ago for children who live in villages far away from the city (the children had to walk over 10km a day to reach school). During this trip, my family and I helped the NGO built an extension to the school so that 200 more kids could study. We also installed solar panels and computers. It was the first school in the area to have electricity.”
Speaking of his trip to Myanmar, Cedric said, “We traveled to explore the country and also see my mom’s close friend, Ashani. Ashani told us about an orphanage that needed help, and I immediately wanted to help the kids. I decided to sell my toys back in Dubai to help raise money. We also bought food, cooked it and served it to the kids and monks.”
Few others have gone all the way to another country to help the less fortunate, let alone children as young as Cedric, and he learned valuable lessons from the trip.
“Giving things to people is good but spending time with them is even better. Sometimes people just need a hug or a little bit of hope so they aren’t so afraid. My mom spent a lot of time with the orphans and they all wanted to hold her hand. It felt weird at first but then I realized that they don’t have anyone to kiss them goodnight, ever.
Many of the things I learned were lessons my parents had already taught me, but I could experience them in real life. For example, I was reminded how lucky I am to have a family and a home. I was also reminded that food isn’t taken for granted everywhere, and most don’t eat meat or green vegetables because it is too expensive: kids in Myanmar and Zambia prayed over each meal to show how much they appreciated their food. “
And it wasn’t just the human condition that suffers, Cedric discovered. “I also learned more about animal conservation and how animals are being poached. If it doesn’t stop, many species will become extinct.
After his trip to Myanmar, Cedric’s Grade 5 teacher, Ms. Jennifer Bruntlett, invited him to present to the whole school a PowerPoint presentation about his trip and experience. Ms. Bruntlett said, “Cedric created a bilingual presentation about his experience and about the culture and history of Myanmar. It was an excellent presentation and experience for him, as he showed great knowledge and confidence about his topic.”
These weren’t one-time affairs. Cedric remains committed to pursuing humanitarian work in Spring 2020 he will be travelling with the social impact group Project Maji a social enterprise working to bring sustainable access to safe water across rural sub-Saharan Africa.
“We are going back to Africa to help build water pumps to give access to clean water. If the children have clean water they are healthy and also, they can go to school instead of fetching water all day,” he says.
We’re proud of his efforts and the work of his parents, and they serve as role models for our community!