SwitzerlandCommunity = Co-Creating Ecosystems | Trans4m Junior Fellows

Nora Wilhelm:
Education is the Key !

“I believe that education is the key for lasting social transformation!”

Nora WilhelmSince a young age, I developed a threefold passion for learning, helping others and projects that connect people. Coming from a Swiss German background but growing up in Geneva, I quickly got into international conferences, volunteering and the work of non-profit organisations. In 2012, I participated in a session of the European Youth Parliament (EYP) for the first time, and after being selected as a Swiss delegate to an International Session, I rapidly became more involved in the organisation. Over the years, I took on a quantity of roles at events all over Europe and have been president of EYP Switzerland for two years. My work in this organisation that promotes active citizenship, society building, socio-economic transformation, intercultural communication and education is aligned with my values and belief in a more united and peaceful world. Alongside my studies in International Affairs at the University of St. Gallen, I remain involved in the EYP and whenever possible contribute to other projects that help bringing about a brighter future. During a life-changing exchange semester in Lima (Peru), I was deeply moved by the situation in the country, which triggered a reflection period leading me to believe that education is indeed the key to lasting social progress. At the same time, I felt a strong dissatisfaction with my own formal education, which in my eyes did neither foster my independent thinking, nourish my soul nor strengthen my values and ethics.

Another main criticism of mine towards the programme I was enrolled in is its complete disconnection from the real world and the absence of impact of the many work hours we are asked to put in writing papers or completing group projects. It was therefore a deep desire of mine to write my bachelor thesis on a topic I care about, in an impact-oriented mind set and to make a real contribution. I got the opportunity to do so after meeting Alexander Schieffer, the professor who is accompanying me in this journey. In the context of an Integral Self-Development class I was inspired by the world view he proposes and started my path as an Agent of Transformation. To me, Integral Worlds is not only an enlightening conceptualisation of reality but also a map indicating a clear path to activate the energy and talent of every person, organisation and society to foster the development on all levels and create meaningful and impactful knowledge that helps us transition to a better, more harmonious world.

Becoming a Junior Fellow of Trans4m and writing my bachelor thesis within the framework of Integral Development seemed like the natural next step. Guided by my interest for education, I therefore resolved to look for an innovative educational organisation with which I could work in a transformative way in the context of my bachelor thesis. The very next day after I took this decision, I met Eduardo Gustale, representative of Fundación Paraguaya, an organisation that, amongst other activities, runs self-sustaining schools in Paraguay. Their ultimate objective is to eradicate poverty in the country, and their vision is that they will achieve it through effective education and by empowering the local population. The foundation’s schools teach their students not only academic content but also the necessary practical skills to lead a better life and to contribute to their communities. As the students learn for instance about farming, they acquire skills by practice and the proceeds from the selling of their output is what finances the school. The focus lies on educating their students with a view to not only enable them to generate a sustainable income in the future but also to act as transformative agents within their communities. Through providing them with what could be labelled an integral education, Fundación Paraguaya contributes to the uplifting of the entire communities of their students and the development of a new educational approach.

After the positive first contacts, the project started taking shape, and eventually flights were booked for March 2016. I was lucky to combine my interest in education and development with my love for South America in the context of this thesis rooted in historically and anthropologically fascinating Paraguay. My research-to-innovation focusses on “Fundación Paraguaya’s Integral Education Model“.

Arrived in Paraguay: With Students of Fundacion Paraguaya
Arrived in Paraguay: With Students of Fundacion Paraguaya