From ice to rice continued…

Jonah and Zoe giving their rice to Nui

Jonah and Zoe giving their rice to Nui

Who has their eyes on Nui’s ice-cream?

Our good friend in Angola, Robyn Fox, came up with the idea of the (bag of) rice challenge – instead of wasting precious water in Angola and doing the ice bucket challenge Robyn suggested donating a bag of rice to someone instead.  A wonderful example of thinking outside the box and being ‘innovative and proactive’, maybe we will see a GC Award submission from Robyn in the near future… an exemplar global mentor!

The girls getting their hair washed

I was nominated by Sarah Travis-Mulford to do the rice challenge after she had made her of rice to the Hand to Hand Foundation.  I have also been encouraging my two oldest children to do the ice bucket challenge ever since I nominated them in Sukhothai a number of weeks ago when I did the ALS ice bucket challenge – they have managed to avoid it all around the north of Thailand and Laos!  

Today they dipped into their own pocket money though and instead of suffering the shock of ice cold water agreed to buy a large bag of rice each and both chose to donate it to our friend Khun Nui.  We spent a lovely lunch and afternoon with Nui; Jonah’s highlight being ice-creams and Zoe’s having her hair washed and blow dried!You can read Jonah’s version of his rice challenge here.  He has now nominated: Morgan Howard, Ben Harrison and Nampetch Bennett for the rice rice challenge (see my nominations below).

I actually took my bag of rice to the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre last week and gave it to Kru Wannee.  I did explain to her what it is all about and I think she understood, I am sure it will all be eaten up and enjoyed either way.  Now it is my turn to nominate three people for the rice challenge and I choose: Karen Partyka, Sego Mokgothu and Sara Menges.  Three people in three different countries (Scotland, South Africa and the US), it will be interesting to hear back from them and finding out how they got on and who they have passed the rice challenge on to.

Kru Wannee accepting my bag of rice for the Fountain of Life

Kru Wannee accepting my bag of rice for the Fountain of Life

The Fountain of Life Children’s Centre with Kru Wannee


The Fountain of Life Children’s Centre was the very first community partner that I was fortunate to engage with and learn from when I arrived to live and work in Thailand back in 1999.  It is a learning day centre for young children that do not (or cannot) go to Thai school, especially for children of migrant workers who have no ‘identity’ in Thailand. The centre was founded and is coordinated by the Good Shepherd Foundation, a group of amazing Catholic sisters who are dedicated to improving the education opportunities and living standards of children (and women) across South East Asia.


The centre is largely funded by the Jesters Care for Kids, a community based group that raises funds and supports development projects specifically for young people in the Pattaya and Chonburi area.  The highlight of their busy calendar being the Jester’s Fair that takes place once a year in early September.

Sabrina at the Fountain of Life Children's Centre

Sabrina at the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre.

I have taken many student and teacher groups to the centre to learn with the children and staff there.  For a number of years part of our school induction programme for new staff involved a visit to the Fountain of Life and meeting the children and staff.  We always challenged the new teachers to immediately engage with the children and to find out who they are, where they come from and what their dreams are – language should never be a barrier or obstacle when learning through service and creating sustainable community partnerships.  The Fountain of Life also visited our school regularly and were included in numerous activities, projects and whole school events.  As part of the community partner programme at the school the Fountain of Life became the permanent learning partner and integrated into the curriculum planning for Year 1.

The Fountain of Life Centre

The Fountain of Life Centre

I have also taken many visitors to the Fountain of Life through work as well as personal friends.  Kru Wannee, the head teacher at the centre, is always very welcoming and understands the importance of community engagement and support.  The children enjoy meeting new people and learning where you come from.  They are always keen to demonstrate their English and sing songs or draw pictures with you.  The centre also makes a wide range of impressive handicraft items, for example cards, which are for sale and the proceeds support the running costs of the centre.

Kru Wannee on the left

Kru Wannee on the left

Kru Wannee is an amazing teacher and lead learner and another inspiring community leader whom I always look up to and try to learn from.  She has an extremely calm and reassuring manner and loves the work she does at the Fountain of Life for the children and her team of teachers.  She is a dedicated and passionate Thai educator and an amazing role model.  I asked her a few questions about her role and what education in Thailand means to her, please see below:

Why did you become a teacher? I would like to help poor children.  I love the children and teaching is a great job.  I really do love this occupation.

What do you think makes a good education? You must teach the children to do it themselves. Allow the children to have a good quarity of life and help them see the value of having a social mind and helping other people. Making sure that all the children can access education who are without  documentation or are from a different country.

What is special about the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre? All of the children have the right to development at the Fountain of life. The Senior staff and children have equality.  We give the power and opportunity and expect respect from the staff, parents and children. We work within a network to protect every child.

How can people support the Fountain of Life? Be a volunteer. Donate money in the bankbook and the office in Pattaya. Promote the center and tell people you know. Do activities with the children and take them on outings. Donate money for education.

What advice would you give people about living and working in Thailand? If you have time you can help us to play games  and sport  with the children and contact Sr.Jimjit or Sr.Joan. You can teach English or handicrafts once a week. Invite the people to visit the center. Contact other people to help the children and raise the funds to support us. Love the city and country you stay in and always help that area.

Poppy Mulford goes to Jordan to receive the prestigious Round Square Kurt Hahn Award

Poppy with Yok and her friends at the Deaf School in Pattaya, Thailand

Poppy with Yok and her friends at the Deaf School in Pattaya, Thailand

Every year the 110 Round Square schools are invited to nominate a student for the Kurt Hahn Award.  This award recognizes someone that has excelled in the area of service or performed a particular brave and courageous act.  These nominations are then reviewed by a panel and if one of the students has met the criteria they are then awarded the Kurt Hahn Award at the annual international conference.  Some years the award is not even presented and every Round Square school must have a board displaying the winners over the last 50 years.  The award is named after the founder of Round Square, Kurt Hahn, who believed that education was about the growth and development of the ‘whole’ person, one of his most popular quotes is:  “there is more in you than you think.”

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

Poppy Mulford (a Global Catalyst winner) was nominated for the Kurt Hahn Award when she was in Year 8 for her achievements through the Global Citizenship Award and fund raising for a young Thai girl called Yok, who cannot hear.  Poppy met Yok during Round Square Week two years ago and then decided to ride her bike from Ayuthaya to Angkor Wat to help improve Yok’s hearing.  Poppy raised over 300,000 Baht and has successfully provided Yok with expert medical advice and hearing aid equipment.  You can see more on Poppy’s blog:

When Rod Fraser, the Chairman of Round Square, presented Poppy with a letter from the Executive Director of the organization informing Poppy that she had been selected from a group of seven nominations to receive the Kurt Hahn Award at the international conference in Jordan.  Mr. Fraser said:

“It was a pleasure for me to be able to congratulate Poppy Mulford on being the 2014 Kurt Hahn Prize winner.  Poppy is a young lady who exemplifies the Round Square motto ‘that there is more in you than you think’ and is a thoroughly deserving winner of this worldwide award which is not necessarily presented every year but which acknowledges an act of courage or selflessness of significant proportion.”

Poppy is now on her way to Jordan with her father, Nat, to receive the award and attend the Round Square International Conference where she will also give a 15 minute presentation to all the delegates and HM King Constantine.

Congratulations Poppy and good luck in Jordan, we very much look forward to hearing all about it when you return.

Are (old) school reports useful?

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I was sorting out the filing cabinet at home the other day at the same time looking for that vital form that you need to claim back some sort of insurance.  It is never easy to throw things away and sometimes you wonder why you hang on to random nostalgia from the past, it is as though there is an emotional bond and a difficulty to let go.  So the easiest thing to do is file it away at the back of a draw or at the bottom of a box and ultimately forget about it.  Until you stumble across it again de-cluttering hence I found my old school reports from my days as a student at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

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I quickly flicked through them and then started to read some of the comments reflecting back on my time as a learner at school and the way I must have been perceived by my own teachers.  I enjoyed school and thinking back had good teachers that supported me and tried their best to help me fulfill my potential.  Reading through the comments on the report you can tell which teachers really knew you though and understood your personality, your strengths and also your areas for development.  Being a teacher myself and having written – in fact typed – a great number of reports it is always important to demonstrate the uniqueness of each individual student and make that connection with them and their parents, I believe this provides confidence and reassurance that the learning relationship is genuine and that the teacher is doing the best they can to ensure that particular student succeeds.  Teaching is all about engagement and relationships.

Mr. Westerman, my old Head of Year, obviously knew me well through our learning engagements (he also led the school orchestra – I used to play the saxophone!). Looking back over his comments on my school report I like the way his writing style demonstrated he knew me but is also confident in getting a serious message across.  I am also impressed by his big picture approach with regard to education and learning as he talks about  the ‘package’ that includes good subject passes but also the importance of developing ‘personality’ and ‘appearance.’  How many interviews have you had where the interviewers have asked about your subjects or grades?  They say 33% of bosses know if they will hire someone in the first 90 seconds.

Graduating class from Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Ashbourne, 1995

Graduating class from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ashbourne, 1995

What about my peers who studied with me at the same school?  Where have their subject grades, personalities and appearances taken them?  Which one of those three elements has been the most important factor?  Did or do they ever reflect on their school reports and experiences during random moments of de-cluttering?  I hope they are achieving life success and happiness wherever they are.  Maybe one of them will interview me or you one day…

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You may like to read some funny sentences taken from actual school reports in the UK and submitted to the Telegraph newspaper here.  They made me smile and think about the next set of reports I will have to write.

My last reflection is an acknowledgement to Mrs. Forbes who was my form tutor and Geography teacher during secondary school and I guess a big factor in me becoming a Geography teacher.  Looking back at these reports I noticed that her comments and feedback were always personal with serious targets for improvement and written in a confident manner, she was not afraid to drop me down a grade either.  This must have motivated me as from what I recall she was the teacher I least wanted to let down – and I hope I haven’t… thank you Mrs. Forbes for inspiring me to be a geographer and teaching me how to be a better teacher.

Game, set and tears!

I can't see over the net!

I can’t see over the net!

The other day I posted some thoughts on the learning state referred to as ‘flow‘ and made a connection to cycling and my own personal observations of my two oldest children taking to cycling.  The reason I did this is because I have been impressed with their development and growth in confidence and ability as cyclists.  My four year old daughter has now cycled over 12 kms in one go with no gears on her small pink bike and her little legs going like the clappers up and down hills.  Her skill and ability has definitely been matched by the challenge and resilience required resulting in a rewarding outcome for all.

Keep your eye on the ball!

Keep your eye on the ball!

We have been trying tennis as a family and sometimes take the family rackets with us on a more casual bike ride or walk.  Unfortunately though, we are a long way off any state of ‘flow’ with our tennis experience.  Although everyone is very keen and excited at first it is not long until the tears appear and their patience is being lost.  Why is this the case?  Tennis is just a bit of fun, trying to hit a ball over a net, we are not expecting Wimbledon champions (yet).  Obviously tennis is proving to be a lot more frustrating though and requires a different range of skill sets.  Maybe my wife and I (we are know Agassi and Graf by the way!) are not the best tennis coaches either and the children can easily spot this.  Where have my teaching skills gone and why am I also getting frustrated and losing my patience with my own children – there is only so many times you can say ‘watch the ball!

Even the ball boy is too slow!

Even the ball boy is too slow!

I find myself often reflecting on my parenthood qualities and why, as someone that has taught young people (both primary and secondary age) for more than 15 years, do I often fail as a teacher within my own home and family environment?  It is not that my children expect a teacher, they want a father and of course I try the best I can and I am still learning everyday with every challenge that they throw my (our) way.  Teaching is about going above and beyond for every student and that is something that I always strive to do and achieve, it is not easy and takes a big time commitment but why else would you go into the teaching profession if you weren’t prepared to do that?

What a volley

What a volley

Parenting is an even bigger (life) commitment and of course you want to go above and beyond for your own children but have to do this over a more prolonged period of time and make sure that you get the balance right.  You can’t be a world class parent all of the time and you can’t always expect your children to ‘flow.’  A good friend said to me the other the day: you have to choose your battles with your own children – you can’t win them all, there are many phases that they are going to go through – let them explore and discover the highs and lows.  Always support them and help them to gain in confidence, there are many different games to be played but not everyone will be a winner but there will always be many points to learn from.  They will eventually discover which sets to go for and it is our job as parents (and teachers) to make sure they ultimately play a winning match and be successful in life.


Nancy Gibson – she loves wildlife


I have had the pleasure to work with Nancy Gibson, the founder of Love Wildlife Thailand, for a number of years.  This is a lady who is passionate about conservation and especially the welfare of our animal relatives.  Nancy does a great amount of work through education and working with schools and is always willing to visit and partner young people through environment based projects.  She is also an inspiring speaker and can engage large audiences as a key note or even spend the day working with children (and staff) of all ages as a facilitator.  If you are in the South East Asia region and are looking for a way to target your sustainable thinking and action Identity then get in contact with Nancy and the Love Wildlife team – they really do love wildlife!

Why did you start Love Wildlife Thailand?

Nancy: Wildlife was a passion of mine since I ended my pursuit to become a medical doctor in university. I had always been surrounded by animals my whole life and realised late in my undergrad that I wanted to work in wildlife. I did wildlife education for some time in the states and had the opportunity to get experience here in Thailand before going back to start my own “something related to wildlife” in the US. I had actually thought of the name before I moved to Thailand, but didn’t know what I really wanted to do with it at that point.

As I gained experience here working with wildlife vets I realised that Thailand needed more programs for wildlife education, far more than the US could ever need and decided to stay here and start my NGO.


In what ways are you a global citizen?

Nancy: I have demonstrated being a global citizen by first and foremost, taking responsibility for my own actions and how I treat nature and the environment. Secondly, I would say that I continue to pass on the torch to the younger generation through the education programs I develop and through inspiring kids to do more. The Youth Ecological Network is an example of that, were I am creating an environment for students to take charge and own the programs within their schools and reach out to their communities to spread awareness and take action.


Why do you think sustainable thinking and action is important in today’s schools?

Nancy: With the rapid deterioration of the environment and overuse from generations before (and even now), it’s definitely important to think sustainable in today’s schools. When we teach student’s to be responsible and make it a habit within the schools, student’s will often carry it on to their homes. This will in turn create a more sustainable future for generations to come. If we do not teach these things, our world will not be a very good place not too far in the future.


How can schools and individuals work with and support Love Wildlife?

Nancy: Of course Love Wildlife always needs funding to survive and continue to provide programs that not only teach about the environment and wildlife, but also support the conservation efforts as well. Holding events to provide knowledge and outreach to the local communities are always a great thing to do. Many schools have jumped in on programs that they feel match their ideals or interests and have volunteered time to work on certain issues such as shark fin campaigns, dolphin issues and illegal wildlife trade. Supporting our new after school education program from grades 1-4 would (YEN Kids) also help in the sustainability of the organisation as well as give your students fun and interactive ways to learn about the many issues in wildlife.


Nancy: Love Wildlife not only works hard at educating young students about wildlife, but push forward building a better future for wildlife in Thailand. We work closely with the Thai government in capacity building and improving the lives of captive animals.

Thanks to Nancy for contributing to the Global Citizenship Award website and sharing her thoughts.  Please do check out the Love Wildlife website and get involved, there is plenty to do!

See also Anita’s experience working with Nancy and the Love Wildlife team.