Over the September break 21 students from Years 6 and 9 travelled to Thailand spending time in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. It was 10 days in total of non-stop action.
Students cycled through local villages stopping at key points along the way, visited ancient temples, planted rice and ploughed rice fields using traditional methods, walked through local hill tribes learning about discreet differences and history of their arrival, climbed 360 stairs to walk in the clouds at the Doi Suthep Mountain Temple, engaged in conversations with Monk Pra KK at Chiang Mai University and learned to cook traditional Thai cuisine in the Traidhos Organic cooking school under expert Thai tuition. We spent half a day at the Elephant Nature Park, which is a rescue and rehabilitation park. We walked among some of the elephants and were able to get up close and interact with these amazing creatures. Their gentle and loving nature had everyone hooked. We were also privileged to see a new arrival, just 4 months old. Nurtured and protected by the female matriarchs it was as if we were watching a wild life documentary. Of course, washing the elephants in the river that ran through the property was just the icing on the cake. Our eyes have definitely been opened to the cruelty that exists in breaking the spirit of these animals for work in tourism and in local villages, and how through awareness we carry the responsibility to share this understanding with others, as there are only 5,000 Thai elephants remaining in Thailand.
Two of the main highlights in Chiang Mai would have to have been our visit to the Vien Ping Orphanage and the Huay Pong Hill Tribe School. Our students raised a total of just over $6,220. This was converted into approximately 153,882.00 Baht. To the Hill Tribe School the 24,730baht went towards a plants for school gardens, to provide much needed shade, classroom teaching aids, speaker system for outdoor activities, student goods such as lunch equipment, towels, blankets, and more. For the orphanage, the funds were used to purchase nappies, milk, fans, tricycles, towels, school bags, and more. We also gave the orphanage a further 29,688baht in funds. Children engaged in Service at both places, spending quality time with the children. We came away enthused, inspired and wanting to stay just that bit longer. This year we have also made a new connection with Mae Wang Children’s Home. Building on from the work of two visiting American schools who have a built a new dormitory for girls, we have spent the remaining money providing bunk beds, mattresses, sheets, blankets and pillows. This project is still being completed, but once ready, the girls will no longer be sleeping in a small room, on the floor. They will have proper dormitory style accommodation. We eagerly await photos of the finished work. When we return in 2018, we will visit the home and share some time with the children who live there. We need to thank all the families who so generously supported our fundraising efforts. A special thanks also to Giorgi Cornford in Year 5 who raised over $400 as part of her 2015 Exhibition project. Also, Grace Curley (Year 7) and Long Roos (Class of 2015) who donated $300 and $500 respectively, and to the following parents who gave generously; Chong, Sowerby, McMullen and Thompson families. While our time with those we support is so limited, our students are well aware after their visit how their efforts and fundraising continue to provide ongoing assistance to two worthy communities.
In Bangkok we spent an amazing morning at the Royal Palace, learning about the rich history which embraces this nation. We took the Klong tour boats through the canals at the back of Bangkok and saw a side of life very foreign to Australia. Obviously this is simply a snap shot. Of course, there were also opportunities to barter for goods at the local night markets and let me say that some fine-tuned those skills and achieved some great bargains to bring home. Overall, as a group we developed an awareness of a world very different to our own and we learned first hand that we had the ability to change and impact positively on the lives of those in need. We developed an empathy with those who are different and/ or less privileged. Together we bonded as a group and got involved in everything that was offered. Staff at Traidhos recognised Somerset students as ‘doers’. They were impressed by their enthusiasm and intelligent questions. In terms of our MYP education, we embraced one of the fundamental concepts of the programme, that of developing international awareness, we completed valuable and much needed service and we certainly lived the Learner Profile. We returned to school just that bit wiser, embracing a new understanding of ‘a shared humanity’ and we were all certainly touched by a very unique and special opportunity.
The Thailand trip was a truly incredible experience that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. I formed valuable friendships and learnt more about myself and the world around me. Thank you so much to everyone who helped make it happen! Vivi Baker Year 9
I had a blast in Thailand. I took home many memories and experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. I was really amazed about the Hill Tribe School students because they were very happy about the most simple of things that we mostly take for granted. I played a very simple game with balls and colours with them and they looked like they had the time of their lives. I remember playing with a child with a paper plane. He was smiling and laughing the whole time I was with him. Even though I couldn't speak Thai and he couldn't speak English we communicated in a way that really touched me. I was also very pleased that he got the pencil case that I prepared for him. It was a life changing experience. Andre Vasquez, Year 7
Nine days of my holiday were spent in Thailand with a group of people from other Year Levels, most of whom I didn't know too well. After the trip, I can say that I have experienced something very amazing! I have made close friends and even better, I got to share this incredible trip, doing a variety of special activities each day. Candice Taylor, Year 9
Thailand was definitely a learning experience I will never forget. It made us all realise how lucky we are here in Australia, as well as providing us with an education on Thai culture. Friendships were made, both within the group and with the children of the school and orphanage that I'm sure none of us will ever forget. Lilly Thompson, Year 9