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“We were all very active members and did not hesitate to express an idea or develop more on each other’s thoughts.”

Since their inception during our digital transformation last year, we have had the pleasure of organizing six hugely successful Virtual CAS Conferences. Focused on giving students the opportunity to address global issues, facilitate authentic service, and harness international-mindedness from home, our conference structure is built on fulfilling the 7 Learning Outcomes and encouraging collaboration between students and global organizations as they work through the CAS Stages in a Charity Hackathon.

Over the past several weeks, we kicked off our 2021 virtual conference series by hosting three weekend-long events tackling one of today’s most pressing global issues: Equality through the lens of Social, Racial, and Gender justice.

In addition to providing a platform to compare ideas, with discussions following keynote speakers from leading global organizations, the conferences challenged students to work together in a Hackathon format to develop a long-term solution-focused Service Project in response to a charity’s urgent, authentic need. 

After reviewing all proposals, a charity-led panel selected the winning team from each conference. These students are now empowered to realize their project in collaboration with the local charity and assisted by a financial contribution from CAS trips. Here are the winning projects!

VCC Europe, Africa, and Middle East

In our first virtual conference of 2021, students worked with Slave Free Trade. They are a Geneva-based NGO with the mission of bringing about transparency and improvements in human rights conditions in workplaces. 

Slave Free Trade’s key focus is to open the everyday consumer’s eyes to the often overlooked atrocities of modern-day slavery committed along the supply chain. Slave Free Trade aims to enable more companies to engage in responsible and ethical production, thus increasing transparency and eradicating modern-day slavery.

The winning team

Team 20 Alpha, featuring students from Italy, Nigeria, Netherlands, Oman, and Tunisia, developed a plan to create a Student Branch of the organization. Their plan involves utilizing social media and organized events to mobilize students and schools worldwide to become advocates for Slave Free Trade. 

Upon learning their team had won, and their project would be happening, the group reflected on how their initial intentions will be brought to life:

“We want to introduce the new generation to the modern slavery discussion, not only creating awareness but encouraging the active participation and involvement of new, emerging, young voices.

We feel it will be incredibly effective for spreading awareness and having students become more involved with the cause, as well as being a crucial part in the creation of a greater change. This will pressure ethically incorrect companies to change their policies, recognizing their mistakes in the neglection of basic workers’ human rights.”

VCC Asia-Pacific

For our Asia-Pacific conference, students worked with RSKS, a charity founded in 1992 in the State of Rajasthan, northern India, with the specific aim to help marginalized women and girls in India. 

India is ranked 112 out of 153 countries by the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report. Conservative thinking, a lack of education in rural communities, and the prevalence of rape and violence against women have been exacerbated by COVID-19. RSKS aims to positively impact 200,000 marginalized women and girls to become self-reliant, accessing a better quality of life, better livelihood, better education, and better health.

The winning team

Comprising students from Japan, China, the Philippines, and Thailand, Team 16 Alpha devised a podcast project proposal to raise awareness of women empowerment and independence, with the intent of changing people’s mindset of what “feminism” is.

RSKS India CEO Dr. Deepak Sharma explained, “We think that gender equality is not an issue of Rajasthan or India. It is an issue of the whole world, and this project proposal will help us spread mass awareness globally, which will surely be beneficial for all.”

In detailing how their project can engage the community, the students added, “Covid-19 has made it harder for people to go outside and demonstrate their activism. Because podcasts are an accessible platform for spreading awareness and receiving information, we believe that our podcast can reach an international audience without being limited by the pandemic. Moreover, if possible, we are planning to translate the English podcast to our native languages so that we can engage and persuade people from our local communities.”

VCC Americas 

At our Americas conference, students collaborated with Urban Art Beat, a charity founded in 2006 in New York City that aims to engage and empower underrepresented youth, schools, communities, and prisoners through various social inclusion programs.

New York City has some of the most segregated schools in the USA, and minority student dropout rates in NYC Boroughs of the Bronx and Brooklyn are among the country’s highest. Urban Art Beat’s primary focus is empowering marginalized youth in New York, and their unique educational approach uses hip-hop and creative arts to channel expression and educate.

The winning team

Students from Brazil, Jamaica, Mexico, and the USA came together in Team 17 Alpha to create a widespread public outreach program for high school students to develop their creative expression and artistic spirit and engage them to shape their community.

In reflecting on their success, the team expressed their enthusiasm about spreading the charity’s vision, “We feel that it will create a more public image throughout High Schools and highlight all the positives that come from Urban Art Beat. We are also glad that our project can help Urban Art Beat solve some of its issues and help more young people.”

As always, we would like to extend our sincere thanks and congratulations to all the participants and collaborators of our Virtual CAS Conferences. Their contributions never fail to inspire us, and we look forward to watching students’ ideas put into action as they help these grassroots organizations increase their impact! 

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