RS International Conference 2019: The World we Wish to See

Posted: 16 October 2019

Over six days from 2nd to 8th October 2019, just over 1000 delegates from 156 schools across the world came together at The Emerald Heights International School in Indore, India for the Round Square International Conference 2019.

It was a week of  multinational and multicultural experience in which delegates from different countries, cultures and perspectives came together to share, learn, understand, and be inspired to make a positive difference in the world – to begin to create a route map to The World we wish to see.

Over the course of the week, delegates undertook great adventures, heard from some fantastic speakers, explored the conference theme in mixed Baraza discussions and challenged themselves to step outside their comfort zone. In doing so you they made many friends, exchanged ideas and discovered more about themselves, about each other, and about the wonders of their host country, than they ever imagined.

The best thing about the conference was being exposed to students from all over the world and being able to absorb so much knowledge from the discussions in our Barazza groups,” explains Constanza Carvallo from Palmer Trinity School “It helped to develop my communication skills because I can sometimes be very shy when speaking in public even though I love meeting people. Sometimes speaking in public makes me nervous and I feel like it has helped me overcome this fear.”

And Will Loach from Ryde School with Upper Chine says “This conference has escalated my appreciation of diversity to entirely new levels as I have made friends for life from all over the world and I learnt about the history and rich culture of India from the people living in this beautiful country

In opening the Conference, Round Square Chief Executive, Rachael Westgarth urged students to use the week to develop their thinking on a range of topics, to expand their knowledge and understanding, and to challenge their ideas and beliefs, but at the same time to consider what the consequence would be – what they would do differently as a result – what part would they play in creating the world we wish to see? Quoting Ruskin, she said: “What we think or what we know or what we believe is – in the end – of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers and discussion panels throughout the conference ignited delegates’ curiosity and challenged their perceptions.

The opening speaker was Kailash Satyarthi, a child’s rights activist who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. During his keynote he urged delegates to expand the horizons of their thoughts and be visionaries.

Also on the opening day, delegates heard from Shashi Tharoor an Indian politician, writer and a former career international diplomat who is currently serving as Member of Parliament explored the themes of democracy and globalization​.

As the conference progressed, Hanson Robotics brought us Sophia, a social humanoid robot that uses artificial intelligence, visual data processing and facial recognition and is the first robot to receive citizenship of any country. Delegates were asked to decide whether they considered A.I. to be potential friend or potential foe and Sophia addressed the conference on a range of topics including climate change, energy conservation and sustainable development, before taking questions.

Our next speaker was Kiran Gandhi, an electronic music producer, drummer, artist and activist. She is also known by her stage name Madame Gandhi. Her music career includes being a touring drummer for artists M.I.A., Thievery Corporation, and Kehlani. Gandhi’s music and activism focuses on female empowerment and fourth-wave feminism.  She encouraged students to use their passion for purpose, and then invited the students on stage to perform with her!

Delegates were fortunate to begin their final day of the conference with a 3K run for cancer alongside Major D.P. Singh, a retired officer of the Indian Army, war veteran who is known as India’s first blade runner, and who later addressed the conference. Major Singh has run 26 half marathons using a prosthetic ‘blade’ leg. During his keynote he motivated students to take charge of their life “You are the Boss of your life and once you recognise that, then no hurdle or challenge is big enough for you.” he said.

My favourite key note speaker was the blade runner because he showed great control and power behind his tone,” says Alejandro Manuel Ortiz from Palmer Trinity School “I ran a 3k with the rest of the other delegates and listened to the blade runner and the life coach speak. I learned to take control of my life instead of coasting because I am the boss of my life.”

The final speaker of the RSIC2019 was Gaur Gopal Das, a former Hewlett Packard engineer turned Indian lifestyle coach and motivational speaker who is part of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He spoke about attitude being the most important factor in personal success and discussed mindfulness and peace education, leaving delegates with a powerful and important message that “achievements are not the only determinants of true success, which comes only when we have what really matters to us.”

Going beyond our Comfort Zones

On Service day, delegates worked with, and visited, some of Emerald Heights’ community partners including Kalyanmitra Samiti Old Age Home, Rangwasa Jaivik Gram, an organic agriculture institute, the Indore Cancer Foundation and Shri Shri Utkarsh Samiti which focuses on welfare and rehabilitation for those most vulnerable in society. Many of the tasks carried out involved refurbishment and decoration of buildings and classrooms. Delegates also engaged directly with students in lessons, games and activities at Manovruddhi Kendra, an education and training centre for children with special needs, at Gyanodaya School, where free education is offered for children living a slum area, Mahesh Drishtiheen Kalyan Sang, which provides for the social and economic rehabilitation of girls that are visually impaired, and the Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy where delegates learnt some basic sign language so that they could communicate with pupils to complete an art assignment. Delegates volunteered at a variety of NGOs in and around Indore such as the Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy and the Indore Cancer Foundation hospital.

On the adventure day delegates explored the ancient city of Mandu. Perched atop a 20 square km plateau, the ruined city is not only endowed with beautiful natural scenery but also occupies a strategically important location in the landscape.

Formal recognition of Achievements

During the Opening Ceremony Round Square welcomed eight new Global Member schools to its community: Calgary French & International School in Alberta, Canada, Holy Innocent’s Episcopal School in Atlanta, United States, Salésien in Quebec, Canada, San Silvestre School in Lima, Peru,  St. John’s-Ravenscourt School in Winnipeg, Canada, Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania, United States,  Maria’s Public School in Assam, India,  and Modern School, Barakhamba Road in Delhi, were all warmly welcomed and presented with their Round Square Membership Certificate and Round Square Flag.

Also during the Opening Ceremony, Shreya Mantha from Providence Day School was formally recognised as the 2019 Kurt Hahn Prize winner for her “Foundation for Girls” initiative, a youth-led social venture dedicated to empowering girls in crisis and shared the following video

In the run up to the conference, students from across the network were invited to submit artwork for the annual Roy McComish Art Award. The artwork was judged on composition, design, medium, quality and the best interpretation on this year’s conference theme.

During the Conference Closing Ceremony the winners were announced. Prizes went to Blake from Holy Innocents, Anveshika from sunbeam School, Ben from Holy Innocents, Jiyoung from ChiongShim, and Camille from Bermuda High School. Congratulations to these young, aspiring artists. Click here to see some of the amazing artwork submitted.

International and Intercultural Understanding

Each evening of the conference student delegations from attending schools performed in a hugely entertaining and impressive nightly showcase of international talent. These multicultural talent shows celebrated and shared the diversity of the Round Square network and each school’s rich cultural heritage in a riot of colour, dance and rhythm, with many performances requiring audience participation, and other performances resulting in audience participation whether they wanted it or not!

After the multicultural evenings, Emerald Heights presented an impressive series of nightime festivals throughout the conference, showcasing the rich and diverse culture of India through food, dance, music, cultural dress, street entertainment, market stalls of hand-crafted wares, and so much more. All delegates were told at the start of the Conference that Guest-is-God, and in these evenings this was certainly felt to be the case. The evening performances were spectacular showcases of the talent and creativity of the students of Emerald Heights who performed each night to the delight and astonishment of the conference. Delegates were encouraged to enjoy the food, dance, socialise and discover a different aspect to India every evening, with every detail meticulously planned right down to the parting gifts made by the students at the school.

“The different types of food, clothing and dances were amazing”, says Vasudha Agarwal from Vidya Devi Jindal School. “Even the welcome by Emeralites was spellbinding and it felt like we were all celebrities!”

Congratulations and thank you

Congratulations and thank you all at The Emerald Heights International School on a truly outstanding event.

If your or your students have yet to give us your feedback from the RSIC2019 please do so here.

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