At ISS we value our relationship with you and want to convey our commitment to your privacy. We have updated our Data Privacy and Protection Policies.

ISD Hosts UNESCO-Style Conference

David Falconer, Director, and James S. Anderson, Ed.D., CAS Coordinator, International School of Dongguan, China

Last May, the International School of Dongguan (ISD) hosted a UNESCO-style Global Issues Conference. Our guiding theme was “Planting the Seeds for Hope and Resilience.” The purpose of this event was to bring together students and adults from around the region who were interested in broadening their knowledge about pressing world issues. Participants were challenged to consider how they could help address these problems on both local and international levels. We were extremely encouraged by the enthusiastic participant response to what was essentially a call for volunteerism .

isd-(1).jpgWe were greatly honored that Ms. Kim Phuc, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, agreed to serve as our keynote speaker. Kim was the subject of the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a traumatized Vietnamese girl running down the street, her skin burned with napalm. Throughout our conference, Kim called for reconciliation, mutual understanding, dialogue, and negotiation to replace confrontation as a means of settling conflicts. UNESCO envisions a culture of peace that seeks to eliminate violence. They hope to begin by promoting attitudes, values, and behaviors that inspire social interaction based in freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, tolerance, and solidarity.

Kim opened the day’s events with the story of how she accidentally became an iconic victim of the Vietnam War. She transformed her otherwise tragic story into one symbolizing hope and forgiveness. Kim’s current role as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador is a profound witness to Kim’s powerful voice for peace and reconciliation around the world.

In an earlier interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Kim stated that, “Napalm is very powerful, but faith, forgiveness, and love are much more powerful. We would not have war at all if everyone could learn how to live with true love, hope and forgiveness,” (Penman, 1).

Following Kim’s presentation, students and adult participants were invited to choose from a variety of small-group workshops. They were facilitated by community and international leaders involved in local projects that build strength and resilience in vulnerable communities here in China’s Guangdong province. We were honored to have workshop leaders who are involved in diverse projects, from lessening the stigmatization of people living with leprosy, to caring for abandoned children. Other speakers addressed the common challenges faced by refugees.

A great deal of credit for the conference is due to our Director, Mr. David Falconer, who, as both a former refugee himself and a friend of Kim Phuc, was able to make this event happen.

Our I.S.D. students added tremendously to the days’ events by creating and administering a blindness simulation that proved to be very popular with student and adult participants alike. This exercise was intended to increase empathy for the visually impaired by giving participants a window into the challenges of living with visual impairment.

The conference closed with a full-group session that asked participants to reflect upon their most meaningful “take-away” from the days’ events. Kim formally closed the conference by encouraging us to keep striving for a better world in concrete ways. Kim also reminded us that reconciliation for past injustices is an important part of the healing process, especially in areas where human rights and dignitary have been historically neglected.

I.S.D. was delighted to hold a banquet in Kim’s honor on the day following the conference, which was broadly attended and successful in raising money to support “The Kim Foundation.”

1Works Cited: Anne Penman. "The Long Road To Forgiveness." NPR. NPR, 30 June 2008. Web. 03 Aug. 2016.

Published in ISS NewsLinks: Volume XXXII Number 1

Check out all of our events and conferences | 2018/19 conference dates: Atlanta, GA, USA (December 9-11, 2018)  •   Bangkok, Thailand (January 4-7, 2019)  •   San Francisco, CA, USA (February 7-10, 2019) |