Baan Maelid – a magical place in the hills

Baan Maelid students in their traditional Karen dress

Baan Maelid students in their traditional Karen dress

Watch four years of Baan Maelid

Some of the best learning experiences and partnerships happen by accident or being in the right place at the right time.   That is how Baan Maelid School and community in Mae Hong Son, in northern Thailand, became a long-term community partner with the Regent’s School Pattaya.  Khun Apichat the headmaster of Maelid School, a true opportunist, was invited to a school in the neighbouring valley by the headmaster of Baan Ompai, the school we were originally working with.  During his visit Khun Apichat politely introduced himself and invited us as a school group to visit his school the following year and to  help fund and build a new playground / sports court for the school.  The headmaster of Baan Ompai School was supportive of this and so we agreed to visit and work with Baan Maelid the following year.

Kru Meena doing what she does best!

Kru Meena doing what she does best!

When working with the community and developing sustainable partnerships through education it is important to have two people that ‘own’ the partnership and truly value the learning outcomes on both sides.  Khun Apichat, as you will know from an earlier post of mine, is a remarkable school and community leader and quickly understood the importance of the holistic relationship between the two schools.  Kru Meena, pictured above, who works at Regents is a similar leader and inspiration when it comes to service learning and community engagement.  She is a natural at building positive community relationships and creating opportunities throughout her own country for young people to participate in amazing experiential learning projects and activities.  Without Kru Meena and Khun Apichat more than 500 students (not including the Baan Maelid students) of more than 25 different nationalities would have never experienced the magic of Baan Maelid.

Regent's students leading the daily exercise

Regent’s students leading the daily exercise

Over the past six years the two schools have collaborated on a wide range of projects including: building a playground and sports court, building a workshop, creating a dam and irrigation system, building water tanks, planting trees, painting rooms, cultural workshops, English programmes and many fun games and activities.  Every morning, as visitors, you are invited to line up on the lower playground for the Thai national anthem and Buddhist prayers.  In the late afternoon after a hard days work the playground transforms into an exercise area for everyone to participate with loud dance music pumping down the valley (see above picture).  Tradition also dictates that the students play the teachers at football before dinner every evening (mixed teams of course) on the hard court and this has resulted in many close and very competitive games, including the now infamous ‘Battle of Baan Maelid’ when the teachers came back from a 9-2 deficit to win 10-9!

Bew receives friendship bracelets from her new friends

Bew receives friendship bracelets from her new friends

Friendships develop throughout the week despite (potential) language barriers and the hardest thing  is always leaving this wonderful place.  The Baan Maelid students and community always let us into their homes, their school and into their hearts.  We always forget about e-mails, Facebook and TV and wonder why our lives have so much ‘stuff’ in them.  Our lungs are full of fresh air and our arms and wrists covered with friendship bands specially presented to us by our new friends – there are always many tears as we wave goodbye.

If you have not been to Baan Maelid yet – you really should… it is a magical place in the hills.

Watch Baan Maelid Project 2013

Khun Apichat the man behind the Baan Maelid partnership

Khun Apichat the man behind the Baan Maelid partnership

 

 

Sego’s gap year reflection at Regents International School Pattaya

Sego with the other gappies at Thai Tims

Sego with the other gappies at Thai Tims

Location of placement: Thailand, Pattaya City
Dates of placement: 06 January 2013 to 15 December 2013
Name of school: The Regents International School Pattaya

Being a gappie in Thailand was an extraordinary experience for me. A beautiful country with friendly people from the Thai to the Karen. I was exposed to a career that has always been at the tip of my heart, namely: education and football. Professionalism was my highlight during this year of many adventures and fun. Though, as far as I am, my gap year has been the most productive year of my life. Nevertheless, I do have international working experience and of course football.

Playing football for the local football team

Playing football for the local football team

Learning opportunities to me was what I was doing. Mainly, which was assisting in the classroom and the sports? One may say, it was a great opportunity to learn from all the best teachers around the world. Many different cultures, beliefs, a massive diversity! I acquired excellent leadership skills from colleagues, and the kids I worked with. Inside the classroom and outdoors with the kids, I was able to learn languages and other life skill factors.

Personally, I was very grateful for the opportunity, thus, included a free return flight all the way from South Africa as part of the long-standing Tiger Kloof community partnership between the two schools. Free comfortable and homely accommodation throughout my gap year. Loads of adventures that I could never have got easily and at no cost in South Africa.  There is an amazing social life and professional learning environment. Safety was at its utmost best, of course depending where you are and what you did.

Sego in Chiang Mai on a community project

Sego in Chiang Mai on a community project

In terms of application process, it was very easy. One’s CV is of vital importance as part of the requirements, your latest school results. On the other hand, a heart for kids, a heart for service and Round Square values as a whole will put you as a favoured candidate. Energy and enthusiasm will also help your application process. Get out of your comfort zone, be willing to learn and explore. I DID, I DO NOT REGRET IT, I AM GRATEFUL AND I HAD FUN.

Sego

Sego with fellow gappies, Henry (UK) and Connor (Canada)

Sego with fellow gappies, Henry (UK) and Connor (Canada)


					

Khun Nui – ‘I have a disability but I am not disabled’

A disabled body becomes an obstacle,

If broken limbs defeat your heart,

But love does not come from outward appearances,

It comes from the hope we nurture inside.

                                                                       Miss Thanaree (Nui) Fungpinyopap

Nui speaking at the We Walk Together conference in 2010

Nui speaking at the We Walk Together conference in 2010

Khun Nui has an inspiring story and she is an amazing person.  This is a lady that you must meet and invite into your school or organisation.  Ask her to tell her story and give her own thoughts about education and personal challenge to your students and colleagues.  Then let your team spend time with her and enjoy her company for the day – she likes to eat lunch!

In 2010 Khun Nui was one of many speakers at the Round Square International Conference – she had never spoken publicly before but had worked with the Regent’s students and staff for a couple of years through the community partner learning programme.  When it came to speaking in front of 850 people, 77 schools from all over the world and a royal family there may have been a bit of apprehension on her part!  On the day she really delivered – speaking from the heart and with emotion – there was not a dry eye in the audience.  Khun Nui also received the longest standing ovation of the whole conference.  Since then Khun Nui has spoken a number of times and always focused on her powerful message “that having a disability does not mean you are disabled,” something we can all reflect upon and think about when we find something challenging, difficult or even frustrating.  Below is an account of Khun Nui’s story.  You can also find Khun Nui via Facebook.

Khun Nui with the We Walk Together team at the Father Ray Foundation

Khun Nui with the We Walk Together team at the Father Ray Foundation

A Miraculous Child

My Story – by Miss Thanaree Fungpinyopap

When my father Thanakorn first laid eyes on me he was quite shocked; I was born without my arms and legs. Thankfully my father was a strong man and he promised in his heart to love me despite my disabilities. My mother however struggled to accept me for who I was. My mother’s family also felt my disabilities would bring great shame down on their decent name. They cruelly persuaded her to abandon me and my father.

My mother left our home as I neared my first birthday. I would learn later that she found a new husband and immigrated to Australia. My father now had to assume the role of both father and mother. This was an immense task for him to undertake; especially in those early years. He worked tirelessly to make sure I always had food to eat and clothes to wear. Despite the difficulties my disabilities presented he was always patient and loving with me. He often reminded himself that he was blessed with both arms and legs, whereas I, his daughter, was not. My father was also very protective of me and had little patience for those who looked down on me.

My father knew he couldn’t take care of me all his life. He understood how important it was to teach me how to become independent, confident and happy, so that one day I could take care of myself. Thankfully many of my father’s friends also offered their support. Then Tim, my first nanny, came into my life. Tim became like a surrogate mother to me. My father often took me out of the house and brought me around the town and countryside. People looked at me strangely. They turned their heads and stared as we walked by. But my father was defiant and proud to be with me. He helped teach me as a child not to feel shame for who I was. He always told me that ‘you are disabled in body, but people who mistreat you are disabled in the heart. You should be proud in everything you have; you are entirely able as long as your spirit is strong in your heart.’

When I was seven years old my father hired tutors to come to my home. This would be my first step on the road to education. I really enjoyed studying and I amazed everyone with my beautiful handwriting. I also loved to research books and learn more about general knowledge. I was delighted when I finished primary education; it was my first great achievement. As I neared the end of senior high school I learned of the Tongku School for adult education. This school allowed for its students to study and work at the same time. I applied and was accepted there. I studied here between the ages of eighteen and twenty. The principal of the school, Komkrit Junkajon, was exceptionally kind and helped me a great deal. One day he came to visit me at home. He confessed to be that he found me an inspirational person who gave him great strength to fight many of the problems in his own life. He said I was a miraculous child. He said the world would be a better place if everyone had my positive outlook on life.

My father got remarried. Soon I had two young brothers to play with. Unfortunately this meant the expense on our household increased and my father’s business, a car repair shop, struggled more and more. As our debt mounted my father and step-mother argued often. The stress led to my father suffering a brain hemorrhage and he passed away. This was a terrible tragedy for me. Sadness overwhelmed me. I wished I could have followed my father on his journey and not remain here all alone.

I didn’t think I could live without him.

His death led to further problems with my step-mom. She couldn’t handle the stress of maintaining the household and she put the blame on me. There was no love left for me in the house and I knew I had to leave. At first I had nowhere to go. My real mother was now living in Australia for over twenty years and I learned that she still couldn’t accept me and my disabilities, even after all this time. But then a former customer of my father’s shop, Daorung, who ran a tour guide company, gave me a job as a tour operator. I worked here for nine months.

Khun Nui receives a gift of thanks from Eye

Khun Nui receives a gift of thanks from Eye

After I finished working here I was taken in by P’Nuch and moved to house near my old home. During this period I was desperately sad. I put on a brave face and told everybody I was fine, but behind closed doors I cried myself to sleep and prayed for my father to rescue me from my loneliness. Then, as if my father heard my prayers, an old friend of his helped turn things around for me again. After my father’s old friend heard of my plight he offered to take me to Bangkok to live with him. He bestowed on me the same love and kindness that my father did and he restored a lost spirit in my heart.

It was during this time I applied for a two year course in Computer and Business Management in English, at the Redemptorist Vocational School for the Disabled in Pattaya. This was the first chance I had to enter the school system on a full time basis. At first I was both excited and nervous. Excited at the prospect of learning, nervous that my disabilities would make me stand out. But soon this worry vanished as I made many friends and immersed myself in study. It felt like a second home for me. My grades were good and the life lessons I learned here as a disabled person was invaluable. Fr. Ray wished his students to become independent people and rightly proud of themselves; I thank him for this legacy, as do all of my fellow students at the school.

My world became even larger when Fr. Deang presented me with a red electric wheelchair since I just came for 3 days. It was as if I had been given a pair of wings as now I could go anywhere I wanted to on my own. Entering my last term at the school I got a job at the Postway Company and I worked in telephone marketing and advertising. It gave me the opportunity to show that a disabled person could work as well as anybody else.

My graduation day was a great success and delight for everybody. I proudly received my certificate and felt ready to take on the world. I was ready to climb all obstacles and fight for what I wanted; a good job that would allow me to support myself and a family. My next step was to begin a BA in Public Relations at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. I graduated in November 2008 and receive my BA on January 15, 2010 and would like to thank all who have supported me in achieving this.

After Postway Company closed down I was lucky enough to be taken on by doctor Surapol as a salesperson of Zhulian Company. I traveled around Thailand with the good doctor presenting products to consumers such as toothpaste, shampoo, vitamins, ginseng coffee, wheat grass powdered drink etc… This job was my first opportunity to really see the beautiful country of my birth, Thailand, and was a liberating experience. I always wish the doctor good fortune on his travels and thank him for showing me my country.

Today I work, thanks to Khun Anon and all the priests, at The Redemptorist Centre Pattaya. I really like my job taking reservations supervisor. I also enjoyed to take care all the group guests to come here and love spending time in the beautiful natural surroundings of the centre. Here I have finally found a peace in my life and can achieve all those things which my father wished me to achieve; independence, self-belief and hope for the future.

Things I have learned in my life; ‘Positive thinking is everything – speak only with good words – treat others as you wish to be treated – give and you will receive.’

Written and Translated by:

Miss Thanaree (Nui) Fungpinyopap

To gap or not to gap… should you be a gappie?

Gappie Matt on the Baan Maelid hill tribe project with his two friends from the the Fountain of Life

Gappie Matt on the Baan Maelid hill tribe project with his two friends from the the Fountain of Life

“Should I take a gap year?”  This is a question that many students ask me each year as they come towards the end of their formal school years.  It is a good and sensible question and one that any outward thinking young person with a growth mindset should consider.  A gap year is not for everyone but it is definitely a very realistic and potentially rewarding opportunity.  It needs to be considered overtime and with support from your parents and teachers to help you make the decision for the right reasons and to also plan the year ahead the best you can to have as many positive impacts as possible.  A gap year should enrich your learning experiences, take you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to connect with people and places that you have not had the chance to do so with whilst at school but also when you go onto university or into full-time work.  I have been fortunate to have worked with a large number of amazing young people from all over the world who have spent a year in our school and with our students as a gappie.  They bring youthful enthusiasm and fresh ideas; they are role models and leaders (global citizens) who add diversity; and provide an important contemporary link to what education means to young people today.  A great gap programme will enrich a school or organisation’s learning environment and community but just as importantly will also provide unique learning experiences and growth opportunities for the gappie’s themselves.

Dan and Smiley - gappies who made a difference

Dan and Smiley – gappies who made a difference

This blog is not about the pros and cons of doing a gap year, prior to university or, as is becoming more common, post university.  I am going to leave that up to the people who have experienced a gap year for themselves and have the stories and advice to share.  If you have been a gappie and spent a year after school or university on a gap placement we would like to hear from you, please share your thoughts with us here.

If you are a school that takes young people for a gap year and are looking for amazing global citizens to work and learn with your students, please provide us with your information here (and we will help you to find a good fit).

Gappie Sego with Alex

Gappie Sego with Alex

Congratulations to Megan Liaw on achieving the Global Ambassador Award

Learn to know, Learn to do, Learn to be, Learn to live together

To see Megan’s portfolio of targets and reflections for the Global Ambassador Award please follow: Megan’s reflections

*Unfortunately we are not able to link to Megan’s CAS (creativity, action and service) blog at present, which has a much broader and diverse range of reflections within it.

Megan representing the Girl Up group poses with special guest and Thai superstar - YaYa

Megan representing the Girl Up group poses with special guest and Thai superstar – YaYa

Comment from Megan:

Everything I did to complete the reward benefited me in more than one way. The experience was worthwhile and even though I have completed the award, I am habitually more aware of my actions and its’ impact on the society. It took me just over a year to complete the award.

Megan is also the Pillar Leader for Democracy in her current school and works hard to ensure that student leadership, student voice and governance is a democratic option and transparent process for all.

Congratulations Megan on being an amazing Global Citizen.  We look forward to hearing about your progress and achievements in becoming a Global Mentor.

 Assessed by: Paul Crouch and Brittany Tang

 

Finding the leader in you

This is the story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.  There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.   Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have. (Author unknown)

Leading by example

Leading by example

What type of leader are you?  Leadership lessons from dancing guy.

I strongly believe that there is a leader in everyone and that as a teacher it is my role to help young people (and my colleagues) discover what type of leader they are and what skills and values they bring to the learning environment and team.

“A good leader, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, ‘We did this ourselves.’”  Lao Tse

It is wrong to assume that a leader always leads from the front, is bold and confident – gives directions and delegates tasks.  Leadership is about inclusion and bringing the best out in everyone, achieving success for the common good.  By doing this we must look to go out of our comfort zones and also encourage others to do the same – but always remembering that each persons comfort zone is very different to others.  This is what the Global Citizenship Award is all about, helping people leave their comfort zones and discovering who they are and what types of leader through global citizenship you can be in the world today and also in the future.  We all have a role to play and can contribute in many different ways.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”  Charles Darwin

Amit delivers the opening address at the We Walk Together conference

Amit delivers the opening address at the We Walk Together conference

Don’t become a slave to social momentum, don’t be someone that seeks comfort over change.  Try something new everyday, speak to somebody new everyday, challenge yourself to be different and find the leader in you.

Think about the opportunities and possibilities instead of the challenges and problems.

If you change your thinking, you will change your actions!

Khun Mechai – transforming education in Thailand

Khun Mechai with the RS 2010 student steering committee

Khun Mechai with the RS 2010 student steering committee

The Mechai Patana School, also known as The Bamboo School, in Buriram in the North-east of Thailand is an amazing place for learning and community engagement.  In fact Khun Mechai Viravaidya, the founder of the school, likes to refer to the school as a 7Eleven – a ‘hub’ for the community that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  Khun Mechai has never done things by halves and is one of the leading social entrepreneurs and innovators of education in Thailand today.  Many people knew of Khun Mechai as ‘Mr. Condom,’ the man who spoke out in the 80’s and 90’s about the imminent threat of HIV/AIDS to Thailand and travelled the country promoting the use of contraception and using his ability to use humour and wit to get the message across to the (especially rural) Thai people.  He has rightfully been recognised with numerous awards and global positions for his work on population, development and HIV/AIDS issues as you can see in his short biography below.*

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Today, though, he is still working hard for the rural disadvantaged and believes education is the key factor to bringing better opportunities and equality to rural communities and the people.  The Bamboo School is a unique and holistic approach to education within a typically rote learning based Thai education system.  His model gives young rural people the chance to learn life skills and the confidence to use them to be successful in life – not just for themselves but also for their families and their communities, ultimately preventing the educated from migrating to the urban centres such as Bangkok.  The Mechai Patana students engage in service learning, work experience, social enterprise initiatives, the interviewing and recruitment of their teachers, financial responsibility, creativity, sustainable thinking and action, etc.  They really are amazing global citizens who are independent learners and succeeding academically.  Khun Mechai has recently formed a partnership with a prestigious Thai university that has recognised that the MPS students are equipped with the learning skills and values to be successful in tertiary education and beyond and has agreed to offer places to every student that graduates from the Bamboo School.

Who is teaching who?

Who is teaching who?

Khun Mechai spoke at the We Walk Together conference in October 2010 and is an inspiring speaker for young people and educators.  I strongly recommend that you visit the Bamboo School in Buriram or in Jomtien (south of Pattaya), even better invite Khun Mechai into your school or workplace – you will not be disappointed.

*Khun Mechai Viravaidya is the Founder and current Chairman of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), one of Thailand’s largest and most successful private, non-profit, development organizations. Since 1974, PDA has initiated community- based family planning services, innovative poverty reduction programs, large-scale rural development and environmental programs, as well as groundbreaking HIV/AIDS prevention activities throughout Thailand.

Mechai Viravaidya had a pivotal role in Thailand’s hugely successful family planning program, which saw one of the most rapid fertility declines in the modern era. The rate of annual population growth in Thailand declined from over 3% in 1974 to 0.6% in 2005, and the average number of children per family fell from seven to under two. Mechai Viravaidya pioneered and championed many of Thailand’s social mobilization and community development efforts that are now taken for granted. Although much of his time was spent in the NGO sector, Mechai Viravaidya has also served in the Thai government as a Senator, in 1987 and again in 1997, and as a member of the cabinet during 1985-86 and 1991-92. As a Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister for Anand Panyarachun in 1991-92, Mechai Viravaidya was the chief architect in building Thailand’s comprehensive national HIV/AIDS prevention policy and program. This initiative is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding national efforts by any country in combating HIV/AIDS. By 2004, Thailand had experienced a 90% reduction in new HIV infections. In 2005, the World Bank reported that these preventative efforts helped save 7.7 million lives throughout the country and saved the government over US$18 billion in treatment costs alone. In recognition of his efforts Mechai Viravaidya was appointed the UNAIDS Ambassador in 1999.

Apart from his involvement in the government and the NGO sectors, Mechai Viravaidya has business and corporate experience as member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of many major corporations. He also served as trustee on the Board of many Universities and international organizations. For his efforts in various development endeavours, Mechai Viravaidya has been accorded numerous awards and recognitions including: the United Nations Gold Peace Medal (1981), the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (1994), one of Asiaweek’s “20 Great Asians” (1995), the United Nations Population Award (1997), and one of TIME Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” (2006). More recently, Mechai Viravaidya has been awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2007). Again, PDA and Mechai Viravaidya were the recipients of the Gates Award for Global Health in 2007, and are one of the Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurship in 2008, both of which are awarded with a cash gift of one million US dollars.

 

 

We Will Remember Them

The UK entered the First World War at 23.00 on the 4th August 1914, 100 years ago.

In October 2011 myself and a group of five students of different nationalities had the opportunity to visit the World War One battle fields in Belgium and northern France prior to attending a student conference in the UK.

Personally, the three days that I spent visiting the battlefields, was one of the most moving and significant learning experiences that I have ever experienced.  I was extremely grateful to have such a knowledgeable guide and passionate historian with us, bringing real meaning and context to every site we visited.  I am determined to return again in the near future, hopefully sometime during the next four years – the 1st July 2016, to commemorate the fist day of the Battle of Somme would be particularly special – and share my thoughts and experiences with my own children.

I would like to share with you this four minute video clip that the five students put together for our Remembrance assembly the following November back at school.  I think it gives a powerful perspective through their own eyes and I hope that they too realise the significance of the next four years when they reflect on their memories, emotions and the impact visiting the battlefields had upon them.

We Will Remember Them

(film by: Ha Eun, Mae, Nancy, Daniel and Nine)

 

Congratulations to Poppy Mulford on achieving the Global Catalyst Award

Learn to know, Learn to do, Learn to be, Learn to live together

To see Poppy’s portfolio of targets and reflections for the Global Catalyst Award please follow: Poppy’s blog

Poppy being congratulated by the Chairman of Round Square on receiving the Kurt Hahn Medal for contribution to service

Poppy being congratulated by the Chairman of Round Square on receiving the Kurt Hahn Medal for contribution to service

Comment from Poppy:

I first set out to do the Global Catalyst Award in Year 7, and this took me two terms to achieve. In Year 8, I set out to do a specialist  award called the Global Athletic Award, building on the achievement and activities of my Global Catalyst Award.  Doing the Athletic Award was very different to the Catalyst Award as all of my activities for the Athletic Award were focused on one main goal – to improve the life of my young deaf friend by raising money to improve her hearing. This was a great challenge which was quite hard since I had to cycle 459 km but it was worth it because now I feel good about the fact that I have helped someone less fortunate than me.

Poppy was also awarded the Brittany Tang Bursary for Outstanding Global Citizenship and will be awarded the Kurt Hahn Medal for commitment to service from the Round Square organisation in Jordan in October at the global conference.  This award is only presented to one student from all the Round Square schools each year and only if someone has met the criteria set out by the awarding committee.

Congratulations Poppy on being an amazing global citizen.  We look forward to hearing about your progress and achievements in becoming a Global Entrepreneur.