Article by: Jess C.

With the start of holiday cheer and the end of the semester near, ISM students and faculty find themselves looking forward to more than just a well-deserved break from the first half of the school year. December 7 marks the beginning of the much-anticipated ICARE (International Community Actively Responding to the Environment) week, which gives students and faculty a chance to unwind—not only to be separate from the stress of school, but also to disconnect from inward thinking and to project their energy outwards.

At its core, ICARE aims to introduce students to a different environment, one outside the academic atmosphere of a classroom and without access to the privileges that ISM students have at arm’s reach. According to Mr. Woods, CAS coordinator and advisor to the student-led ICARE council, “ICARE has always been about supporting sustainable development, and learning more about the Philippines.” Thus, during ICARE, students are exposed to various issues and face new challenges that increase awareness of themselves and the world they live in and help them grow as individuals and global citizens.

In the 19 years that it has been in existence, ICARE has undergone changes that have shaped it to become the enriching experience that it is today. ICARE used to take place in February instead of December, and students had to pay to go on a trip. Thus, fewer students participated and fewer sites were involved. With the integration of the entire student body and the inclusion of more metro and provincial sites, ICARE became a more organized, well-structured program that allowed students to be more involved with planning and initiating activities. More recently, ICARE has been tailored to fit the new CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) system under the IB (International Baccalaureate) program, with a clearer focus on the new UN Sustainable Development Goals and the new CAS learning outcomes. “We are [now] moving students to take on the central role for planning and running ICARE, as part of the new CAS approach,” says Mr. Woods. Students in the IB can now opt to use ICARE as their CAS Project for their senior year, during which they will plan a one-month activity in conjunction with their chosen ICARE site and demonstrate leadership, collaboration, and the five stages of CAS.

However, while ICARE definitely requires an extensive amount of planning and organization, the lessons learned and relationships made during ICARE are what makes the experience itself so memorable and worth it. “The most memorable experience from my ICARE [was] in freshman year,” says junior Jin Young Cho, “not only because it was the first time I tried rowing, but also because I was completely surrounded by nature.” Certainly for everyone, it’s the beauty of seeing smiles and hearing laughter that defines the ICARE experience.

“We come into ICARE thinking that we are the ones who have something to offer to the kids,” says junior Shani Samtani, “but at the end of the day, it’s they who have the most valuable lessons to offer to us.”

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