At the beginning of this school year, Heritage International School proudly launched its 2019-2020 “Founders’ Lecture Series” programme, meant to inspire our students with a range of speakers from the fields of diplomacy, politics, science, sport, business, civic groups and speakers of a wider interest that can challenge and develop ideas of the wider world as our education at Heritage prepares our students for the 21st century and global society.
The series, implemented by Director Robert Ford, springs from the very mission of the founders themselves: “To prepare students for the challenges of the future. A dream of an international school that will give the children of our country the atmosphere of an alternative, progressive, and modern educational institution.” As the founders continue to support education in and beyond the classroom, programme provides students real world ways to think about and apply their learning in a progressive atmosphere.
Looking back at its inaugural year, as an example of wider and holistic curriculum, the “Founders' Lecture Series”, with the variety and quality of speakers coming to lecture our students on such a broad range of historical and contemporary topics, has been immense. The programme has become an excellent platform for our guests to share inspiring stories of success and has had a profound impact on our students. The power of these lectures epitomises the approach of Heritage to all-through and global education, so students are challenged intellectually and have unique compelling learning opportunities.
The first to give an inspirational talk in our wonderful library were three remarkable Moldovan students who have won the prestigious Chevening Scholarships offered by the British Government to live and study in the UK. The audience of our first cohort of Cambridge IGCSE classes listened intently to the speakers about the hard work, ambition and goals they have from this programme to bring their experience back to Moldova to work and lead in our country as global citizens. Several of our students said they would like to apply for such a scholarship in the future. Our staff and students were also treated to a fascinating talk about the life of a diplomat from the deputy Head of Mission at the UK Embassy in Moldova, Gary Davies.
The second lecture in the series took place on the 30th anniversary of “The Baltic way” protest, with His Excellency, Ambassador Mikuts of Latvia, kindly talking to our students and staff about Latvian history and culture, especially the events of 1989. Ambassador Mikuts spoke about the peaceful protest, when over 2 million people held hands in a human chain across the three Baltic States, and about the legacy and impact of this moment on the world. The Ambassador took questions from our students and staff and underlined again the importance of the Lecture series on inspiring our students and giving them the opportunity to meet, hear and question important figures in our community as global citizens.
Debbie O'Connell came to our school to talk to our students about the problem of stray dogs in Moldova, to look at the way this crucial social responsibility is carried out and how our students as local citizens can get involved and take on social responsibility as active citizens. She is the founder of Friends of Moldovan Strays (FOMS), an organization that helps stray dogs in Moldova, especially dogs who were injured, homeless, lost, sick and generally in need. The Dog shelter does not receive any government funding and it is extremely hard to keep 230+ animals warm, fed and safe. Inspired by Debbie’s endeavours, in October 2019 our school hosted the first ‘non-uniform day’ in order to incentivise donations for the shelter. Our Heritage community showed incredible generosity by donating food, blankets, and toys for the dogs and cats. Later that month, the school organised an excursion to the dog shelter, where our students thoroughly enjoyed playing with the dogs and making new friends.
Douglas Muir works with the United States agency for International Development (USAID) to improve the trade and infrastructure in Moldova, through projects such as major highways, public buildings and sponsorship of a range of civic and social projects, mostly centred around the 5 major crossing points on the Romanian-Moldovan border. In his lecture he also talked about USAID in general, the how’s and why’s of the agency. The students were fascinated to hear about the concept of “soft power” which is how a country can influence another country via non-violent ways. They learned that USAID is a tool of American soft power, it works to advance American interests, but also works to help people and make their lives better.
Dr. Dacho spoke to staff and students about the Cold War division in Europe and the events around the 1989 Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia. The Ambassador drew on first-hand experience of his younger life during the Soviet period and in the year 1989, when the Wall fell and the system subsequently collapsed. Students and staff were treated to a fascinating lecture and the opportunity to ask questions of the ambassador. Dr. Dacho spoke of the need for us all never to take our freedoms or democracy for granted in light of this history. The students were also interested to learn more about the success of Slovakia as a modern, successful, progressive and prosperous country, which, being a former Socialist Bloc country, represents a model in Eastern Europe for development. Ambassador Dacho sees the cornerstone of this in the concepts of freedom, democracy, transparency, accountability and humanity, being practiced in the culture of Slovakia. The Embassy of Slovakia have also kindly loaned the school an exhibition on Slovakia and students received wonderful gifts from the embassy staff.
Students and staff enjoyed a fascinating talk for the 6th Founders’ Lectures from Andrea Cuzyova from UNDP Moldova, looking at how we implement #SDGs into our routines and lives, as well as the incredible work the UNDP undertake in Moldova especially around sustainability. The UNDP undertakes some of the most innovate and impacting work throughout Moldova including significant sustainability projects from alternative energy use to providing electric car infrastructure around the country. The UNDP also works extensively with the large Moldovan diaspora ensuring the support of local social projects and building up local grassroots capacity to change society for the better.
Victor Colta gave a fascinating talk looking at the causes and legacy of the Financial Crash of 2008. The 21st century is still being shaped by the events of the first decade that changed the course of world history and reflected the fragility of the global economic system. Victor Colta was working in finance in Chicago at the time of the Crash and his lecture “The causes and consequences of the 2008 financial global crash” addressed this, and the consequences of our future development and prosperity as a global economy. Not only was Mr. Colta able to make this topic accessible to our Gymnasium students, but he inspired many to think about the possibility of careers in business, and to dream of a job on the trading floor.
Dr Igor Pokanevych, our 8th "Founders' Lecture Series" speaker, took the pupils from Heritage International School on a “trip” to explore the fascinating world of health and World Health Organization. He talked with students about how WHO helps to keep people safe and healthy around the world, and here in Moldova. The WHO works extensively across the whole of Moldova and is a key NGO providing expertise and support in public health, health and eradication of diseases. The WHO plays a major role in education especially in terms of the health of women. The guest led the discussion about healthy life style, road safety, SDGs, childhood diseases and vaccination. The hottest question was of course related to coronavirus and protection.
We had the privilege to hear Human Rights lawyer, Veronica Lupu, speak to students and staff for our 9th lecture on “How the legal system is used to prevent the trafficking of children, girls and women from Moldova”. The audience was interested to know more about her incredible work stopping the inhuman trafficking of vulnerable children and people from our country. Veronica Lupu’s mission to rescue some of society’s most vulnerable women and children was outlined in this lecture. Student were moved to learn how we all have a social responsibility to protect our communities and give people hope.
The 10th session was extraordinary. We had a really inspiring and engaging speaker, Cristina Lupusor from Google Inc. in London, with a fantastic story to tell the students about her educational journey from Moldova, to winning a full scholarship to a US university (worth $100k p/a) and rising up to work in an international role for Google. The speaker received questions from the students and gave excellent responses, especially the ones on working hard, being balanced, Cambridge A Level being needed for university and how proud she was of being a Moldovan. Moreover, it was the first time we have tried this on the DLP (Distance Learning Plan) via Google Meet, with our guest speaking to over 150 Gymnasium students (and their parents) watching from home.
The final lecture was great way to end the first inaugural "Founders’ Lecture Series", a series in honour of the founders of the school, designed to challenge, provoke and provide real world intellectual curiosity on a range of issues for our students, in order to prepare them for the challenges of the future in a global society.
We are extremely grateful for our speakers’ generosity with their time for our students. Their support, as we work to build cultural knowledge capital in our school, enhance our curriculum, and give our students access to the world, is worth so very much. We know that these lectures will help to inspire our students as they continue to grow into truly global citizens. Moreover, it is a model we want to share with other schools in Moldova and invite external students and the ministry here for the second series.
This is international education. This is Heritage.
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