The task of being a contributing citizen is difficult for adults and even more so for students, especially ones bound to a large city venue where there are language barriers and, in comparison to other cities in the world, relatively few volunteer opportunities and organizations doing social service work. Finding ways to ensure that our school community 'lives' our mission is a large part of our strategic plan and it was also the basic theme of CEESA Mission and Vision pre-conference at the International School of Prague in March. Three of AAS Moscow's administrators/board members attended that session as it reflected the issue we are working hard to embrace: ensuring that our mission and vision are our reality, not just words on our walls.
Every year in March, all of our high school students participate in what AAS calls Discovery Week trips, which are one-week travel opportunities to experience the wealth of art, history, natural exploration, and cultural opportunities that other countries offer. Many international schools do the same, but for AAS, one of the powerful opportunities some students have during this trip is to connect to the mission of their school: to 'contribute as globally aware citizens.'
For the past few years, some high school students have chosen to spend their week volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, truly using their time for others as they do some of the heavy lifting and dirty details of building a house for a family in need. The vision for Habitat for Humanity is 'a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live through the elimination of housing poverty and0homelessness.' Families receiving a house from Habitat are required to contribute their own 'sweat equity.' At times, our students have had the amazing experience of working alongside the people, young and old, who are building their dream: a safe and comfortable place to live. This work for Habitat for Humanity truly makes global contribution a real and personal experience for our students!
In 2011, AAS students traveled to Macedonia for their Habitat volunteer experience, and in 2012 a group went to Portugal. This year, two separate groups traveled - one to Portugal and one to Macedonia. At the Anglo-American School of Moscow, we believe it is truly the role of the school to empower students to live our mission...in this case, 'contribute globally'. It's not the most glamorous or exotic trip students can choose, but the expansion of interest that led us to send two groups to work with Habitat buoys our spirits as we see our mission alive in these students and remember that we can strive to help students make a difference in the world in a real and powerful way.