Thank you UWC Community at Dover

by Neha Patel, PACE Chair

To the UWC Community at Dover,

You amaze me. The depths of your compassion and generosity, year over year, seem to know no limits. In another record-breaking year – you donated nearly $70,000 in one night to support secondary education at CSB – the bulk of which was given in the pledge round (nearly $50,000). Together with ticket sales – we have already raised $100,000 and we have one more fundraising evening ahead next week at East Campus.

Thank you for helping us take this huge stride forward on our journey with CSB. We are truly humbled by your unwavering support and your commitment to creating better futures with more options for the children of CSB. Your donation will play a pivotal role in providing educational opportunities for Rohingya refugee youth, empowering them to build a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Thank you for living your best UWC lives and supporting PACE.

Thank you for bringing your spirit, your generosity and your tolerance of my off-key singing to our event on Saturday. Every dollar you have contributed will be utilized efficiently and effectively to support the secondary education needs of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia. We will keep you updated on the progress of our initiatives and the impact your donation is making.

Yours In Service,




Volunteering at CSB with My Family

by Neha Patel, PACE Chair

Shoulder to shoulder, the students were painting the wall while singing along to Taylor Swift. It was a perfect snapshot of the week – three UWC students* (ages 12-15) seamlessly working together with CSB students creating a mural on a drab wall in a primary classroom. Earlier in the week they had divided the wall into 6 panels – one panel for each student to hand draw. Where one panel met another panel, the students worked together to make sure the lines were connected and blended together. Over the course of the next three days, this group would stay behind after school to paint, snack, chat and laugh together. Whatever their differences (in religion, culture, and opportunities) – there was so much they shared (including a love of art and bubble tea).  

In my time at UWC, I have come to deeply appreciate the transformative impact of hands-on volunteering on both my own family as well as the lives of these resilient young learners.

Family volunteering at CSB is an intense, heart-warming, eye-opening experience. We stayed at an Airbnb within 5 minutes walking distance from CSB. It was a 2 bedroom apartment which cost $60SGD/night. We packed our lunch every morning before leaving for school and took turns cooking dinner when we returned home (usually grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, or pasta with vegetables). Our days were long – often 10-12 hours per day and we were exhausted by the time we went to bed every night. It wasn’t luxurious but we were comfortable. 

Our days started around 8:30am at the school-wide morning assembly which is held in the only room which can capacitate the entire student body and teachers. As we filed in every morning, the younger children waved enthusiastically, peeking beyond me to see if my girls (and their new friends) were also coming that day. The older students would mouth “Good morning teacher” and eagerly await whatever Lulu and we had planned for the day. The receptiveness and willingness to listen, learn and participate in everything we suggested was not lost on any of us.

Due to insufficient funding, CSB routinely faces teacher shortages and the week we were volunteering was no different. Since there are never enough teachers (or classrooms available) – early primary students are only able to attend school on alternate days and secondary students often sub-in for teachers at the primary level so the professional teachers can teach higher grades. Principal Lulu manages the teaching schedule on a daily basis – slotting teachers, volunteers and herself where they are needed most on any given day. This also means that volunteers are at the heart of the action – whether it be tirelessly entertaining primary children with educational games while they wait for the bus, like my 12-year-old did; or teaching IGCSE exam mark schemes and running science experiments with secondary students who will be sitting the Coordinated Science exams next year, like my two 15-year-olds did. 

For my part – I spent the week with the four students who would be leaving for the Philippines within the week – trying to teach them all the important life skills they would need once they were on their own in a foreign country. Skills like “how to open a bank account” “time management” or “how to use Google Calendar.” I was inordinately pleased when a few weeks later – each of the four students sent me a message with a screenshot of their own Google Calendars where they had inputted all their new university classes and were actively managing their time.

I was also humbled by the enormity of what these four students were committing to. For the week leading up to their departure, I saw how they battled nervousness about the challenges ahead, excitement for the adventures that awaited them and sadness at leaving behind their families and communities, with no expectation of seeing them for at least four years. Only one student of the four had his family’s support in leaving – the other three were going against their families’ wishes which required an inordinate amount of strength. At that same time, I witnessed how Principal Lulu, Founder Madama Soraya and all the teachers at CSB unwaveringly support these students as they embark on this journey. There were celebrations (and tears), help buying necessary items like their first suitcases, and a lot of reassuring and building up of these young men and women. 

In my time at UWC, I have come to deeply appreciate the transformative impact of hands-on volunteering on both my own family as well as the lives of these resilient young learners. By working directly with the refugee children, we create opportunities for our own children to understand the challenges faced by these young learners. This firsthand experience fosters empathy and encourages a sense of global citizenship, helping our children grow into compassionate and open-minded individuals. Every night, as we planned for the next day’s activities, my own girls and I shared laughter and pride at the connections we’d made and the bridges we had built that day – all transcending cultural differences and reminding us that our shared humanity unites us all.

Empowering Change Through Education: A Year Ahead of Impact and Unity

by Neha Patel, PACE Chair

Dear PACE Friends,

As we embark on another year of service for CSB and the children of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, I am thrilled to share with you our exciting plans that promise to make a profound difference in their lives. Our organisation is committed to ensuring that education remains a beacon of hope for these young minds, offering them a pathway to a brighter future.

At the heart of our organization lies a commitment to the UWC Mission, which emphasizes the value of a diverse and inclusive community.

Transformation Through Education

Education has a transformative power that transcends barriers and empowers individuals to break free from the cycle of adversity. This year, our primary focus is to ensure that the students at CSB have access to quality secondary education that not only imparts knowledge but also instils confidence, resilience, and a sense of purpose.  This support takes many forms including providing resources for quality teachers; access to teaching materials, computers, and science equipment; and monetary support for exam fees, transport and school operations, so that more and more students each year can sit and earn IGCSE credits towards a brighter future.  

In August 2023, four additional CSB scholars left for the Philippines to get a start on that brighter future and are pursuing college degrees at universities on a full scholarship. In time, these determined students will also be eligible for a Philippines passport for themselves and their families – transcending the barriers imposed on them in Malaysia. 

Also in August 2023, the first batch of CSB secondary students supported by PACE received their IGCSE scores for the Malay exam.  All thirteen students passed with As or A*s – giving them the confidence to tackle the next set of exams coming up in November 2023.  

Unite for Change: Quiz Night Fundraisers

Our Quiz Night Fundraisers have become an iconic part of the UWC annual calendar, and this year is no exception. These lively events bring together individuals from all corners of the College in an atmosphere of friendly competition and camaraderie. It’s not just a chance to showcase your knowledge but also an opportunity to contribute to a cause that is larger than any one of us. Mark your calendars for these evenings of fun, laughter, and meaningful giving – November 18 for Dover Campus and November 25 for East Campus.

Kindred Spirits in Action – Across a Community – For a Common Goal

This year, we are expanding our engagement opportunities to ensure that every member of our community can play a role in this important mission. From parent service trips to family volunteering days, to mentoring Grade 11 students, there are myriad ways to get involved.  

One of our greatest successes last year as a community was unlocking the depth of resources and compassion at UWCSEA for CSB. Students, teachers and administrators have generously donated their time in training, collecting resources, donating necessary supplies and volunteering at CSB.   By opening these avenues, we are fostering a sense of ownership and unity, demonstrating that each person’s contribution, no matter how big or small, is vital to our collective success.

At the heart of our organisation lies a commitment to the UWC Mission, which emphasizes the value of a diverse and inclusive community.  We move forward knowing that education is not just about acquiring knowledge; it’s about nurturing potential, igniting curiosity, and shaping the future leaders of our world. Our collective efforts as a community hold the power to transform these children’s lives, instilling in them the belief that their dreams are within reach.

Thank you for your unwavering support and dedication to our cause. Together, we can rewrite the narratives of these young lives and create a legacy of change that will resonate for generations to come.

With gratitude and determination.

New Resolutions or A New Life

by Neha Patel, PACE Chair

Their struggles remind us of the facility and preciousness of human life, and the resilience of the human spirit.  They are a testament to the enduring power of hope and the human capacity to overcome adversity.

As we embark on a new year, I’m once again thinking about the changes I want to make in my own life for 2023. This year, I have made resolutions to spend less time on social media, work on my flexibility/mobility and to take more risks (without fearing failure). I am hoping these resolutions translate into a “new life” or at the very least a “new purpose”.
And yet, for the Rohingya refugees living in Malaysia, the prospect of starting a new life is not just a resolution — it is a daily struggle and one they cannot afford to abandon.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group from Myanmar who have been subjected to persecution and violence for decades. In 2017, a military crackdown forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring countries, including Malaysia. Many Rohingya refugees arrive in Malaysia after a perilous journey by sea. The voyage can take weeks, and many refugees suffer from dehydration, starvation and illness. Some do not survive the journey.

D-Begum, a CSB student who came to Malaysia six years ago shares in the video below – the challenge of maintaining her focus on her studies in the face of intense pressure from her community to get married now that she has passed through puberty. D-Begum is only 17 years old and is lucky to have supportive parents who are willing to stand up to these members of her community – but nonetheless, she finds it hard to constantly be the subject of gossip and questioning about her choices to pursue education rather than an early marriage. D-Begum is one of CSB’s most promising students and PACE hopes to support her in her future studies. PACE is fund-raising this February to support D-Begum and others like her who remain resilient and determined to build a better future for themselves and their families. D-Begum is part of a community of survivors, who face daily pressure to give up on education. For the children in this community, we hope to raise enough money to solidify an education pathway to a new life.

As we reflect on the past year and consider our own goals for the future, we ask you to keep the Rohingya refugees front of mind. These individuals have faced unimaginable hardships and persecution in their homeland and have had to undertake a dangerous and uncertain journey to seek safety and a better life. Their struggles remind us of the facility and preciousness of human life, and the resilience of the human spirit. They are a testament to the enduring power of hope and the human capacity to overcome adversity.

This February, we hope to bring the UWCSEA Community together to provide them with a pathway to higher education – and help them build a brighter future in their new home. Starting a new life is not only for new year resolutions but for Rohingya refugees, it is their only chance for a better life.

Meet D-Begum
Age – 17
With CSB for 6 years




Find out more here about PACE next Fundraising events:
East Campus: Friday, 17th February @ 7 pm
Dover Campus: Saturday, 18th February @ 7 pm

Where are Rohingya Refugees Now?

by Rena Ahuja (PACE Volunteer – G7 Dover Parent)

“Once we had country & thought it fair, look in the atlas you’ll find it there” – W.H Auden from Refugee Blues

Rohingyas, as of today are struggling to lead a safe and respectable life. All of this while living outside of their birthplaces – Myanmar. Rohingyas were forced to flee Myanmar in August 2017 due to targeted violence against their community. The Rohingya people have faced decades of systematic discrimination, statelessness, and targeted violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Such persecution has forced Rohingya women, girls, boys, and men into Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia for many years.

It’s a double whammy then, that the world’s struggling economies are forced to open their doors to thousands of lives. Governments and communities are scrambling for laws in order to support hordes of refugees that arrive in their countries every year. Refugees in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Bangladesh mostly seek temporary livelihoods, while waiting for resettlement to a third country, a process that could take years. 

Some refugees flee to Malaysia & Indonesia by sea between the months of November and April when the seas are calm. Thousands embarked on never-ending sea journeys. Their plight was worsened due to the pandemic forcing governments to shut their borders as a precautionary measure. 

Countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia are not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its protocol. Hence, there is no asylum system regulating the status and rights to the education of children. 

Children are the most vulnerable lot in such crisis times. They are forced to live in extremely congested camps often exposing them to hazards like fire, harassment, and malnourishment. Many local NGOs have stepped into neighboring Malaysia to provide basic necessities like food, clothes, shelter, and healthcare. While these are the most urgent and life-saving support in demand; education is often overlooked. Education is empowering and also a basic human right.

The PACE community this year has partnered with Caya Surya Bhakti (CSB), a non-profit that provides primary and secondary education to the children of Rohingya refugees thus allowing them to dream of a future beyond their illegal status in Malaysia. A world where they can thrive independently and fearlessly. Do have a read here, on PACE’s efforts to support CSB in Johor, Malaysia. CSB is a dynamic, grassroots organisation based in Johor, Malaysia. It was founded in 2013 to support Rohingya refugee families from Myanmar – and help educate their children. This year we will ask the UWCSEA community to come together once again to show their support for the value of education. To raise funds for this worthy cause, a fun quiz night is coming up in the new year, read all about it here.

Information source credits: 

Through the Portal

by Neha Patel, Chair

This past week, I encountered a new portal.  On stepping through the portal, I met:

 . . . Seven teenagers preparing to take their first set of IGCSE exams, a step towards a brighter future, maybe;

. . . . A principal whose eyes are weary from the constant battle for resources and yet who dares to hope for the impossible and inspires her students to keep studying, despite an uncertain future;

. . .. A 70-year-old woman whose diminutive frame belies the strong spirit and enormous heart that fuels her fight for the stateless Rohingya refugees in Malaysia;

 . . . Dozens of children, boys in collared shirts and girls wearing a tudung, stealing glances at us with eager, curious eyes and shy smiles. 

I travelled through this portal when I crossed the border at Tuas and visited Cahaya Surya Bakti’s center in Johor Bahru. Cahaya Surya Bakti (CSB) is an NGO which runs five education centers plus an outreach program across Malaysia – tackling the impossible problem of educating the nearly 50,000 stateless Rohingya refugee children living within its borders. 

This year, PACE will be partnering with CSB to support its heroic efforts. Consistent with PACE’s mission to provide hope through education, UWCSEA’s mission and the UN Sustainability Goals of eradicating poverty – our hope is to support all CSB students who choose to pursue secondary education through scholarships and educational assistance programs. In the longer term, with the support of the UWCSEA community, our ultimate goal over the next few years will be to create a pathway for some of these students into the UWC Movement. In the interim, we will be offering many hands-on ways to get involved from bi-monthly volunteer opportunities, family service trips, teacher training workshops, student mentoring programs and more. 

In the coming months, I will be sharing with you the stories of the students, the teachers and the community behind CSB. Like any great story – there are villains and there are heroes. There are acts of bravery, acts of desperation, acts of kindness and acts of hope. At the heart of this story is the fundamental truth that education is the most powerful tool we have to alleviate poverty and suffering. For the Rohingya children, who have no passport, no ability to travel beyond the borders of their refuge country and no rights within their home country – education is the only portal to a future where they have a fighting chance. 

On the drive back from CSB last week – our car of PACE Board members was quietly contemplative. In one short visit, we witnessed heaps of courage, determination, deep respect for education and hope. We were grateful for the easy crossing at the border back to Singapore. Our unrestricted freedom to travel back and forth through this portal was not lost on us.