Cedric Walti-Drazal is a Grade 5 student at Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai (SISD). Here he shares his unique charitable endeavour traveling to Myanmar, where he volunteers at an orphanage and then to Zambia, where he helped Fathers and Kids Camping build an extension to a school and install solar paneling.
Tell us about yourself.
I am 9 years old. My dad is Swiss and my mom is American-Polish. I was born in Shanghai, China and lived there until I was three years old. My family and I moved from Paris to Dubai in 2017 and I have been in SISD in the bilingual French and English programme since then. I love swimming, Kung Fu, reading, and traveling. Oh, and Harry Potter.
Why did you decide to travel to Zambia?
My mom and dad used to work in Africa and Asia; they are very sensitive to countries that need help. My mom‘s job was to help women grow their own businesses in Africa and Latin America.
In 2018, my dad joined a camping group in Dubai and the idea for a trip to Zambia was inspired by Vahid, the leader of this group. We decided to join the trip and my mom even helped organise it.
A group of 25 adults and 25 children travelled from Dubai to work with Mothers without Borders, an NGO that built a school many years ago for children who live in villages far away from the city (the children had to walk over 10km a day to reach school). During this trip, my family and I helped the NGO build an extension to the school so that 200 more kids could study. We also installed solar panels and computers. It was the first school in the area to have electricity.
What did you learn during these two trips?
Giving things to people is good but spending time with them is even better. Sometimes people just need a hug or a little bit of hope so they aren’t so afraid. My mom spent a lot of time with the orphans and they all wanted to hold her hand. It felt weird at first but then I realised that they don’t have anyone to kiss them goodnight, ever.
Many of the things I learned were lessons my parents had already taught me but I could experience them in real life. For example, I was reminded how lucky I am to have a family and a home. I was also reminded that food isn’t taken for granted everywhere: kids in Myanmar and Zambia prayed over each meal to show how much they appreciated their food. Most don’t eat meat or green vegetables because it is too expensive.
Did you share your experience with your friends at school?
I created and presented a PowerPoint about Myanmar to English class and French class, my teacher invited me to give a presentation in the whole school assembly.
What would you like to do next?
We are going back to Africa in spring to help build water pumps to give access to clean water. If the children have a pump and clean water, they are healthy and they can go to school instead of fetching water all day.
Dominica, Cedric’s mother, weighs in: “There is a plethora of ways in which we can contribute to the greater good. Sharing financial resources is a lovely and appreciated gesture, but going one step further by engaging with a community is humbling. We feel that a child’s education is multi-layered and that, beyond the academics, one needs to meet people from all walks of life (culturally, socio-economically) to truly feel and develop a sense of self. Of course, we hope each person can be a kind, generous, and patient human being. Pushing a child out of his comfort zone as seen in Zambia, notably with the orphans, may have been a bit intimidating at first but Cedric gently and gradually understood that he could learn so much from these wonderful children.”