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The Global Dimension

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of working collaboratively at an international level and reinforces the need for schools to embed international awareness and understanding within the classroom.”

At St Joseph’s we recognise the importance of empowering our students to become confident, capable, critical thinkers who are ready to contribute to and shape their world.  We appreciate that growing interdependence between countries changes the way we view the world and ourselves. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of working collaboratively at an international level and reinforces the need for schools to embed international awareness and understanding within the classroom.  At St Joseph’s we are actively responding to the demands of globalisation to support our students to develop a responsible and international outlook. 

“We are committed to offering our students the very best global opportunities and are constantly seeking to develop new global partnerships to enhance the overall educational experience offered in St Joseph’s.”

We know that in order to empower our students to be able to deal with the local and global challenges of tomorrow we must embed international awareness and understanding within the culture of St Joseph’s.  In addition to our formal curriculum we have made a number of links with international partners to offer students opportunities to think globally.

While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily removed the opportunity for international travel we have plans to resume our international links from January and February 2022 when our students are scheduled to travel to Austria, Berlin and Kraków. 

We are committed to offering our students the very best global opportunities and are constantly seeking to develop new global partnerships to enhance the overall educational experience offered to our students. 

We have a range of well-established and embedded links to encourage our students to have an international outlook.

Global Build Cambodia

Since 2016, St Joseph’s has partnered with Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia.  Our students have the opportunity to travel to Cambodia to help support some of the 2.5 million people who live below the poverty line as Cambodia emerges from decades of conflict and inequality. 

This experience offers a holistic education to our students as they become immersed in the challenges face by others around the globe.  It is not only the students who travel to Cambodia that benefit from this experience but also the entire school community who work collaboratively to fundraise to support the project.  Students are taught the Cambodian Genocide as part of our Key Stage 3 curriculum to further promote a global outlook and appreciation. 

Our most recent Habitat for Humanity team successfully raised £40,000 to support humanitarian work in Cambodia.  While in Cambodia our students work as part of a team to help develop sustainable communities with good quality housing, water, sanitation and electricity access.

Our global partnership supports the development of training programmes to promote gender equality, income generation, and appropriate responses to HIV/AIDS.  By working with Habitat Cambodia, our students develop a global vision to help them develop the skills necessary to be global citizens.

Change Makers Programme

As part of our partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Ireland we run the Change Makers Programme.  Change Makers is a shared education and citizenship programme that offers our students the opportunity to explore social justice and active citizenship.  There are three dimensions to the Change Makers Programme:

Classroom based workshops: 

Using experiential learning, our students explore key social justice issues facing our communities and our world. Students consider how they can use their voice to be ‘Change Makers’ in our school, community and world to bring about positive change for those in need. The programme explores Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how housing contributes to their implementation along with Habitat’s work and impact locally and globally.  

Fundraising Challenge

As part of the programme our students take part in a ‘fundraising challenge’ through which they are challenged to raise funds to contribute toward the cost of completing a house for a family in Malawi, Zambia and Ethiopia. 

As part of this aspect of the programme the students develop their entrepreneurial and innovation skills while also changing the lives of a family forever by offering them a safe place to call ‘home’.

Volunteering onsite:

We know that to empower our students to make a positive and transformative impact in the world they must be challenged to roll up their sleeves and move beyond the comfort of the classroom.  

As part of the Change Makers Programme students have the opportunity to volunteer for one day on a local Habitat project in Ireland.  This can be on a Habitat for Humanity building site on in ReStore in Lisburn. 

Students have the opportunity to meet volunteers and hear their stories as well as experience ReStore in action and help through a variety of tasks including up-cycling, merchandising, painting and more.

Supporting the Daughters of the Cross missionary work in South America and Asia

In 2019, we established a new charitable foundation to support the Daughters of the Cross Missions in Asia and South America.  The aim of this charity is to help support the sisters’ mission in Brazil where they work with children who have profound special needs; in Cameroon where the children are thirsty for knowledge but are denied it because of civil war; and in Nepal where the children have no resources.

Unfortunately, the COVID- 19 pandemic has temporarily delayed plans to expand the reach of the foundation but it is our aim that in the coming years students and staff will travel to a school founded by the Daughters of the Cross far up in the Himalayas, facing Kanchenjunga, to carry out missionary work.

French Language Exchange Programme

We have an established link with our sister school in Liège, Belgium where our students have the opportunity to take part in a French exchange programme. 

In previous years our students have visited Liège and Belgian students have visited Donaghmore.  This programme allows students to make new friends, experience a new culture and develop their proficiency in spoken French. 

Expanding Learning Series

Through the Cairde Brogán Foundation we have established links with universities in Ireland, the UK, and throughout Europe.  Through these partnerships we are able to expose our students to academics from a range of universities. 

Our students benefit from these partnerships in a range of ways.   They are able to experience guest lectures from academics in areas related to their study and also gain an insight into what university study is like across a range of disciplines.

Currently, through our ‘Expanding Learning Series’, we have links with the following universities:

  • KU Leuven, Belgium;
  • Maynooth University, Ireland;
  • Queen’s University, Belfast;
  • University of Oxford.
Beth Murray (Past Pupil)

International Volunteering in Cambodia

Being a student in St Joseph’s Grammar School, Donaghmore literally opened up a world of opportunity for me.  I know that I was offered opportunities that simply aren’t available in most other schools and for that I am eternally grateful.  At the end of Year 13 I was given the opportunity to travel to Cambodia to volunteer as part of the Habitat for Humanity Global Village programme. I can say with confidence that the opportunity to take part in this expedition and travel to Asia with my school friends was the most incredible experience and it has provided me with skills I value and use daily.  How many people can say they went to Cambodia on a school trip?! St Joseph’s taught us to think big and aspire to achieve great things and this is another example of that! 

Being part of the Global Village programme involved much more than just volunteering for two weeks on site in Cambodia.  We began a range of fundraising activities in November 2017, through methods such as street collections, coffee mornings, and receiving generous donations from friends, family and members our local communities. This experience taught me the value of money and showed me how difficult it is to raise funds.  This experience developed my creativity, problem solving and innovation skills and I am so proud that working together we raised around £40,000. 

I can still remember the feeling when we finally arrived in Siem Reap.  None of us had ever been in Asia before and we were filled with nervous excitement.  On our first evening the local volunteers with Habitat for Humanity met us and gave us a crash course on Cambodian culture.  We were taught some basic words and phrases to allow some communication with locals and they provided us with traditional Cambodian style scarves to wear when we were building.  Our eyes were immediately opened up to their cultural practices and our horizons were broadened.

Building work began the following day. The work was tough, the temperatures were high and we had a variety of jobs to familiarise ourselves with. Most of us had never worked on a building site before and it truly was a baptism of fire.  Despite the tough conditions we had a clear goal in mind- we wanted to complete two houses before we left Cambodia- and we succeeded.  Throughout the working day the habitat team would provide us with fresh fruit and drinks.  During breaks we were able to meet some of the people we were helping, the majority of whom were children. The energy and happiness they greeted us with was inspiring; what they lacked in monetary wealth, they made up for in their constant smiles, playfulness, and gratitude. Working with the locals was a life lesson in itself and it offered us an opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we are but also how little we value what we have.  The experience reinforced to me that family, friends and support networks are so much more important than material possessions and wealth. 

We had the opportunity to visit a local school.  The Habitat for Humanity group showed us further how our fundraising supported children like these.  Habitat provided infrastructure that offered the school and local community access to clean drinking water and sanitation. While we were there, the children showed us their classrooms and performed ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes,’ which they had learnt in order to greet us in as friendly a way as they could.  At the end of each day, we were exhausted, but we were filled with an immense drive to continue our work knowing we were helping these people. 

While in Cambodia we also were taken on a range of expeditions.  We were taken on a small boat through the Siem Reap river, surrounding which were houses built on high stilts to avoid flooding, and other boats that acted as their local shops. We had the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields where we were educated on the years of brutality many Cambodians faced by the Khmer Rouge under the leadership of Pol Pot.  

For our last couple of days, we travelled to Pnomh Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Whilst we were here, we visited Angkor Wat; this area consisted of fascinating temples, and introduced us to Cambodia’s treasured places of worship. We made it there early, and witnessed the sunrise over these beautiful structures. We also had our packed lunches stolen by monkeys while waiting for it – we really never know what to expect on this trip! 

I arrived home from Cambodia with a newfound confidence, an understanding of the importance of working together, and an appreciation for all we have. In job interviews, and university applications, I have endless experiences to discuss, as I learnt so much whilst we were there. I believe that the memories and skills I developed from the Habitat for Humanity programme will remain with me for life, and I couldn’t recommend availing of an opportunity like this enough.