United World Schools gained charitable status in 2008, and has come a long way in a short period of time. Much of this progress has only been possible with the generosity and support of some key individuals and donors.
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.
The need was a school, and 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 – the Braham family and Evan Quiros 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 Chris, together with Sitha and the UWS Team in Cambodia, continue to work tirelessly with the people of Cambodia 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. UWS family connections also remain – Anna, Chris’s daughter, is a trustee of the charity, while Tim, Chris’s son, is Chief Operations Officer.
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