Margaret Chodak from UK: "One of the challenges we face is the ever increasing numbers of schools who want to join Round Square."
Margaret Chodak was born in the United Kingdom but has lived abroad for much of her life in Singapore, Australia and Germany. A teacher by profession she has taught in both the state and private sectors and is currently running a boarding house at Wellington College, U.K. Her involvement in Round Square has included being RS Coordinator at school level, co-chair at the 2002 International Conference, an assistant leader of the Round Square project in Thailand as well as being the leader of the project in South Africa since 2006. Her work gives her enormous satisfaction as it brings together young people and adults from all over the world.
WSN: What are the challenges facing Round Square (RS) today?
Margaret Chodak: One of the challenges we face is the ever increasing numbers of schools who want to join Round Square. This brings about logistical problems for hosting Conferences. Another challenge we face, I believe, is diversifying the type of school we welcome in to the Round Square family. Although we have schools from around the whole world, it has to be said that the schools are often from a similar socio-economic group. It would be wonderful to be in a secure enough financial position to accept schools from the state sector, for instance, or more eastern European countries.
WSN: How should RS deal with the 'Environment' within the IDEALS in times of global warming?
Margaret Chodak: Every RS school is committed to promoting environmental awareness and actively playing a part in caring for the world in which we live. It is an individual decision as to how each school achieves this. Some have constant campaigns others chose to target days. There are a wide variety of ways in which the different RS schools support the environment and these range from producing energy using sources other than fossil fuels, to having automatically-controlled light switches.
WSN: How could RS profit from cooperation with other international network organisations and these from cooperating with RS?
Margaret Chodak: This very much depends on the type of organisation, but yes, there are unlimited possibilities in this field.
WSN: Who gains more from RS projects - the helpers or the people that are helped?
Margaret Chodak: It is clear that both gain from these projects and I do not think that it is important to try to compare the experiences. What is important is whether something has been gained. For the communities it is not only about the physical buildings which remain once a project has finished, although these are obviously important because they provide a place for people to come together, very often to learn and be educated. The contacts with young people from all around the world are invaluable experiences for the communities in which RS work. It is also quite something for the people to know that RS project participants have come from all over the world and have given up their holiday to work with and for them. The RS students gain just as much from their experiences and yes, one could argue they gain more. For many of them this is the first time they are exposed to poverty or sufferers with the HIV virus. They also are working alongside students from a truly international background and often make friends for life. For many of them their experiences are life-changing ones and I have known some who have changed the course of their lives and who have applied to different university courses than originally planned when they have returned to school.
WSN: What is your personal motivation to support RS?
Margaret Chodak: It is natural to help when you know someone is in need of it. I am an educator. Therefore my motive for joining RS is really a simple one. I always say that the success of a project is what students will do with their experiences. Will they go back and forget about it and in a year's time simply have good memories or will they go home and do something? Doing something is not limited. They can raise awareness, fundraise or return to the project site at a later date. They may act immediately or in the future. By the nature of most of the schools in RS, the students who go on projects will be the leaders of business, education or politics in the future. I hope they will remember their project experiences and think about what they can do to alleviate further suffering in the world.
RS also offers opportunities to exchange and realise actions on a global level. What an empowering thought that students across all continents can link together to achieve something. This is what RS can do.