A veritable feast of different cultures make up the Commonwealth, but it is tied together by a shared language, values, interests, history, and purpose. In the latest edition of Overseas, we speak to ROSL members, music and arts scholars, and recipients of ROSL's humanitarian and education projects from around the world to find out how they see the Commonwealth.
"In my youth I attended Roedean School in Sussex. One of my best friends who also grew up in England, had spent her early childhood in India, whilst I had spent five years in South Africa. This week she sent me greetings from Australia where she’s now living, having read my piece about my current hometown, Calgary, Canada in the Overseas.
That’s the Commonwealth in my life – a necklace of countries spanning the globe where you’ll likely enjoy use of the English language, connections, common values and some shared education. And of course, the Anglican Church. The Commonwealth has allowed me to explore and make friends in Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Africa, North America and Britain. What a marvellous gift!"
Madeleine King, Calgary Branch President, Canada
"As a young girl, I was always fascinated by the huge diversity of the world with foreign names of cities, their leaders and their cultures all cohabitating on the same Earth. Working at ROSL in London gave me the opportunity to embrace the Commonwealth firsthand. This common thread enables us to learn, understand and appreciate our differences. "
Lyn Milne, NZ Branch Chair, New Zealand
"The best way for me to think about the Commonwealth and its relation to me is that it’s a network.
Like having a network of business associates, or friends, school contacts, neighbours, the Commonwealth shares those network characteristics of shared interests, values and purpose. In times of change and uncertainty, it always feels better to know who your friends are, your known contacts, in other words your network. In this way, the importance of the Commonwealth, this network of countries, can be fostered to be a more important force for good, both for members of the Commonwealth and for the whole world. After all, it promotes democratic values, freedom of speech and the rule of law."
Liz Murray, BC Chapter President, Canada
"Living in the South-West of England I think of the Commonwealth as being like an extended family living around the world. For those of us in ROSL the Commonwealth is a very important way of bringing and keeping the family together, either by celebrating the wonderful variety of arts and music it creates, or by encouraging and supporting through the education and humanitarian work, as supported by Taunton Branch members last year."
Neil Milne, Taunton Branch Secretary, UK
"Thinking of the Commonwealth always leaves me wondering what that is. It feels like being the detective in Patrick Modiano's Rue des Boutiques Obscures, searching for his former self or selves as it turns out, ending the book in the South Pacific, walking around an empty boat, trying to invoke his identity as it should be. It's as if I don't exist in place, it has to be through objects, experiences, encounters, a series of entanglements with fractured bits of meaning that sometimes form a complete picture."
Tahi Moore, ROSL ARTS scholar, New Zealand
"ROSL is like a father to me. Having been brought up by a single mother and then finding a very kind organisation to step up and fill in the missing part is all I needed for a successful life. ROSL has paid for my school fees for four years in high school and continues to pay my tertiary school fees. Words cannot describe my heartfelt gratitude to ROSL. Without the Commonwealth, this link and support may not have happened in the first place.
The organisation gave life to me and my family. It was a great challenge working so hard back in primary school without hopes for quality secondary education. But I thank God that I got a scholarship and that people in the Commonwealth can be linked up in this way."
Antony Waweru, ROSL Bursary Recipient, Kenya
"I believe the Commonwealth is a lot more than just a group of nations with a common head of state. I believe it is a ‘family’ of members across countries which are unified through a common purpose. Its shared values and beliefs are developed to benefit each Commonwealth country. The Commonwealth is unique by its history and tradition, led by our Queen, and is something to be valued and developed by all for all."
Stephen Jones, Tasmania Branch Secretary, Australia
"The Commonwealth to me represents a bastion of the high ideals of inclusion, diversity, respect, and community. Coming from a Hong Kong and Canadian background living in the UK, the Commonwealth reminds me that we are all humans that share a delicate ecosystem and planet Earth."
Jackie Yu Hon Lam, Younger Member Committee Commonwealth Liaison, UK
"I’m a fan of The Commonwealth. Its strengths lie in the voluntary nature of its membership, their shared values and that, unlike other transnational bodies, it is not top down. Rather the opposite; it does not aspire to impose uniform or arbitrary political, cultural and economic doctrines from above. Instead, individualism is encouraged and shared through Commonwealth institutions. It fosters international understanding and cooperation, supports democracy and promotes world peace. It is therefore a force for good."
Derek M Philips, Editorial Board Member Representative, UK
To find out more about the Commonwealth, read the latest issue of Overseas here.