Wo International Center Teaches ‘Global Competence’

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Punahou School’s Wo International Center continues to embrace difference, even through a pandemic — simultaneously encouraging others to do the same. 

While many changes facing the globe during this time are challenging, the Wo International Center chooses to view them instead as opportunity. They see the expanding access to technology opening increased cultural connections and collaboration, which students can meaningfully be part of.

The Directors of the Wo International Center believe that knowing how to successfully navigate within a growingly complex and interdependent world is becoming evermore important. They are striving to facilitate understanding and engagement at both the local and global, or “glocal,” levels, as was phrased by Dr. Robyn Vierra, the Director of Global Education at Wo International Center. 

Mrs. Paula Arias, the Director of Strategic Programs at Wo International Center, said, “I believe  good things are going to come out of this pandemic: namely our ability to connect with students from schools that never before have had that opportunity due to a lack of technology.”  She went on to say, “Governments around the world are now investing heavily in the infrastructure necessary to support online learning, such as enhanced internet connectivity and one-to-one programs affording all students their own internet enabled device. Programs like the ones in Colombia’s rural areas [her native country], are now lifting disadvantaged communities into a new age of learning. These programs are here to stay, and they will continue to narrow the learning gap, and will afford us the opportunity to share with a wider target audience.” 

Wo International Center recognizes that interacting with others is now possible at a revolutionary scale; there are so many more possible ways to affect positive change. Discovering new avenues of connection is at the forefront of thought at the Wo International Center, as the resulting learning is invaluable. 

Dr. Vierra shared, “I was just talking to somebody in Guatemala, and they are not allowed to go back to school until there is a [COVID-19] vaccine. [That person] said, ‘But for you guys, that vaccine might be in a year. For us it could be many years because you’ll produce the vaccine — but we don’t know when we’ll get it. We’re waiting for countries like you.’” Dr. Vierra continued, “It’s just conversations like that, that are really fascinating, that have opened up in a pandemic-world.” 

In their numerous initiatives, the Wo International Center teaches that with greater awareness and knowledge of the world comes a greater responsibility to care for it. 

“Punahou has so many resources; we don’t have to go that far to start helping,” said Mrs. Arias.  

Speaking about global competence, Dr. Vierra added, “When you see an injustice, or you see something that’s wrong with our planet, you take action. It could be standing up for social justice, or the environment… but knowing that you have a voice and that you have a role to play in our world, that’s very much the citizenship piece.” 

Even if not working directly with the Wo International Center, Mrs. Arias and Dr. Vierra urge everyone to start finding more ways to engage with their immediate communities and the world beyond: seeking to uplift others — especially in mountainous conditions.