United World Schools gained charitable status in 2008, and has come a long way in 10 years. The charity’s beginnings are humble. Chris Howarth, who had been volunteering with VSO in Cambodia since 2006, saw a need and opportunity to work with the hugely under-resourced local authorities of Ratanakiri, NE Cambodia, and took action. After more than ten years of tireless work to serve marginalised communities in South-East Asia, Chris retired last year, but the organisation he established has continued to grow and develop. Here is a short history of UWS.
The need that Chris identified in Ratanakiri, Cambodia was an education for the marginalised ethnic-minority children who were without educational opportunity of any kind. So Chris, and his friend Nan Sitha, talked to local people. Trust was gently built, and the village communities were keen to see a school facility developed.
To gain community trust and rapport, Chris and Sitha coordinated educational projects with the children, parents and their villages. Chris’s daughter Anna Smuts, nee Howarth (quoted below), was the catalyst for the development of a United World Schools movement. Anna, together with UK school colleagues from Portsmouth Grammar and Guildford Grammar, ran community engagement projects to connect the schools, uniting young people from the UK and Cambodia.
It seems as though once you hear about UWS it’s infectious. People see the passion, see the need, and believe in what is being done.
The projects were a great success – and the community were engaged in the vision. Using funds donated through the Howarth family, Chris paid for a school to be built, and employed two local teachers.
Kong Nork School, Vernsai, Ratanakiri was opened in September 2008. Today Kong Nork educates around 150 ethnic minority students daily, providing a passport to opportunity for the young people in the village. Chris dedicated the school to his mother, Ann Howarth.
From this foundation, friends of the Howarth family generously offered their support and financial sponsorship – being the first of many donors that deserve to be mentioned and thanked. Thousands of ethnic minority children have been able to access education across the UWS community schools because of their initial efforts and kindness.
Today the UWS Teams in Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal, continue to work tirelessly with community leaders in delivering educational opportunity. Meanwhile UWS has grown with the drive and support of a dedicated Board, executive and trustees, and the on-going support of our school and corporate partners.
Today UWS’s ethos, values and beliefs remain true to Chris’s original vision. To hear more about the people behind UWS, or to help write the next chapter of the UWS story, please contact us directly or visit our facebook page.
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