Creating a string of useful habits

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Kyu Bak preparing a presentation for the Global Issues Network Conference

Post contributed by Kyu Bak Lee

I am a Korean national who grew up in Thailand. During my time in Thailand, I attended an international school that largely followed the British model. So, one can say that I saw the meaning of the word “education” being used and explained in many different ways. For the most part, due to my exposure to three different “worlds” (in a nutshell) from such a young age, my immediate answer to the question of ‘what makes a good education’ would differ tremendously in different cultures. However, now that I have gone through the likes of university, first job and now at a point where I can safely say that I have a career ahead of me, I have yearned for the ‘simple’ things in life.

A good education provides a student with a clear definition of what they are studying. Having a clear understanding of what they are studying provides not only guidance but fosters curiosity. Being curious is, and always will be, the pillar of human innovation.

A good education encourages the student to ask why and how.

A good education shows the student real-life case studies of what they have studied, so that they understand from the beginning that there are external and indirect factors that need to be considered.

A good education provides questions, discussions and potential scenarios for the student to show their understanding, and their ability to apply their knowledge.

A good education provides feedback that opens up a dialogue to foster more discussion with the interested parties.

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team - student leaders

Kyu Bak and Nics, a great Head Boy and Head Girl team – student leaders

I believe my time in University had the most profound impact on my life. You are at a place where everyone was a star pupil in their high school, the quarterback, the debate champion, the community leader, the superman of their respective school and organization. It was a place where I knew I had to challenge myself constantly. Not only that, but the responsibility that life threw me during my days as a university student was also a great lesson for me. From having your teachers, parents and friends help you one way or another to having nobody in a foreign land and culture put me on survival mode 101. I was excited to see myself change and adapt and I also learned to be appreciative of the people that I have in my life. I saw a new me that was scared, excited, sad and jubilant. Some turbulent times that proved that without education, there really is no basis in life that you can turn to. Another thing that I want to mention here is to look at “failures” differently. A profile in failure is as important, or even more so, than a profile in success. Failure should be welcomed if you want to better and further yourself in any given situation.

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

In Europe at the Global Issues Network Conference with friends

So far, my greatest achievement that I have experienced thus far is surrounding myself with awesome people. I have always believed in the power of storytelling and discussions. If you are able to surround yourself with people that not only carry different experiences but also are able to effectively communicate that with you, then you have all the tools you need to succeed. Human beings have always seen each other as part of a collective unit; part of something much larger than them. It only makes sense that we are able to draw out the best of ourselves through the collective help of people and their diverse and dynamic experiences. Finding the “right” group is always hard and I am not saying that it will always come naturally, but how do you know what works for you and what doesn’t from the beginning? You always need to fail, to succeed and to achieve.

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My next challenge is to push myself and become the owner of my own business. One of the things that I learned about myself in university was that I liked the responsibilities, I liked the leadership, and I liked the fast pace and ever changing environment that I found myself in. This all pointed to one thing, and that was entrepreneurship. I tested myself with a few serious projects here and there during my time in university, but those all failed. They were absolutely fun and enriching, but they all went up in flames. The failures only cemented my view that I would need to be my own boss and it only made me content that I was fortunate enough to do what I wanted and fail at it, and be okay.

Being reflective

Being reflective

I would like to share what I wish I had heard when I was a student at school; which is “to create a string of useful habits from a young age.”

Get in to a habit of carrying a small notepad around to write down your thoughts and opinion at any given time. In this day and age, it could be an app on your mobile device, but I like my piece of paper and a pencil. People could argue that they have diaries that they keep but having to recollect your feelings and ideas at the end of the day is a daunting task. So, why not keep it simple by writing it down throughout your day? By doing this, you will find your own efficient way of note-taking and drawing diagrams that you can always go back to and reflect on your days, weeks and years.

Get into a habit of reading. Whether they are books, magazines or online articles; find your interest and passion, and read about them and other people’s, take them on to help you gain an all-round understanding of your interests and passions. This will not only put you closer to your interests, but it will also surprise you as it will expose you to thoughts and ideas that you would not be able to generate on your own.

Get into a habit of playing sports. Playing sports is a great way to make new friends and to learn more about yourself as well. How are you different to playing team games to individual sports? What is it that gets you motivated? Was it the spirit of competition and sportsmanship? Was it the chance to win something? If you play sports, you will always learn more about yourself.

Get into a habit of joining social clubs. If you are a part of a club, then you start experiencing different responsibilities that will be different to finishing your group project, or your homework or your class presentation. It gives you a glimpse of life outside of school that we all need to prepare for.

 

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The Rice Challenge – a Scottish perspective

Post contributed by Karen Partyka

buying the rice

buying the rice

Over the last few months I had seen many of my friends and colleagues do the Ice Bucket Challenge but for some reason it did not feel right for me. I had read on Paul’s blog about the rice challenge that some people were doing instead. It started in Angola where water is scarce and it would not be appropriate to waste water so they changed it to the rice. Then last week Paul nominated me to do the rice challenge. I had seen Paul donate his rice but living in Scotland I knew it would be quite different. So first of all I looked online for local food banks and found one quite close. Unfortunately the first thing I saw on their website was an appeal for urgent items, there was 5 items and 3 of these were chocolate, brown and tomato sauces. I reflected on if you were truly desperate for food, would chocolate or brown sauce be one of your top things. I suppose it goes back to poverty in the developed world is a very different poverty than that in the developing world.

at the food bank

at the food bank

I bought my rice and visited the food bank with my mum, there was no big ceremonial handing over of the rice and the people working there were polite but not particularly talkative. I had wanted to find out more about who visited the food bank, what were their situations but this was not possible.

When I returned home I remembered seeing a woman being interviewed on the BBC a few months ago. Her name was Jack and was a single mum with a baby son. She had to give up her job as it was impossible to work and look after her child. She calculated that with the money from her benefits and her outgoing expenses she had £10 left each week for food. She took a different approach from visiting a food bank, she went to the library and started looking for recipes which were healthy but also kept within her budget. She then started visiting her local shops to find out what time they discounted their food each day and with this information she started to live her life with her £10 a week. Jack started her own blog with her recipes and has built her life from quite a humble start with her son but she demonstrated that working hard and being resourceful is the best teaching tool for her son.

Her website is http://agirlcalledjack.com

Jack and son

Jack and son

In comparison to this there are quite a few stories of families in the UK who are living on benefits but who seem to spend their money on unusual things in their circumstances. One example is a family with children in North Wales. They do not work and their only income is through benefits.  Each week they spend £15 on Sky TV, £32 on mobiles and £240 on shopping which includes 24 cans of lager, 200 cigarettes and a large pouch of tobacco. It astounds me that a family would spend so much of their benefits on lager, cigarettes and SKY TV.

I remember meeting a lovely man whilst I was in South Africa on the RSIS service project, he was the gardener at the centre. He was a gentle man who was a grandfather and was already in his 70s. He was very cheerful and did not ever give you any idea of worry or need in his life. But one day through general chatting he told me that he walked to work each day as it meant he saved the money of the bus. The walk was 3 miles each way, so 2 hours of walking each day just to save his bus fare. The money he saved was not huge but he told me that it all adds up. Would people in the developed world consider doing this to save a little bit of money, unfortunately I think not.

All people have to take responsibility for their lives and to better themselves. I wonder in the UK, do people just expect to be looked after. If there was no welfare state would there be a motivation that it is up to you to better yourself, not the government to provide.

It is a terrible thing in this world that in the developed world we have people in poverty, children in poverty and families visiting food banks but there are procedures in place to ensure a child will not die of hunger in the UK. If we saw a child living on the street in the UK it would be reported straight away. In many developing countries countless children live on the street and people walk by them each day as they slowly die of hunger without a second glance behind. Each year 2.6 million children die of hunger.

The Fountain of Life Children’s Centre with Kru Wannee

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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.

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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.

Sewing for global citizenship

Contributed by Karen Partyka

Sewing with Karen

Sewing with Karen

I started sewing earlier this year. I wanted to be free from being told what to wear by fashion and be creative. I also started making little things for other people, bags, lavender sachets etc. Then recently I saw online about a woman called Lillian Weber. She is 99-year-old and for the last two years she has been making dresses for girls in Africa through an organisation called Little Dresses for Africa.

Lillian Weber making dresses for others

Lillian Weber making dresses for others

 

 

 

So far she has made more than 840 dresses and she plans to make 150 more by next May which will mean on her 100th birthday, she will have made her 1000th dress! I was so impressed by this lady, she took her talent and decided to do something with it beyond her own life. I looked into this organisation and decided I could start making dresses.

girl

The organisation mainly gives the dresses to girls in orphanages and to families who would have to choose between food or clothing but could not pay for both. I was horrified to read that during one of the trips to Sudan, they gave the dresses to little girls who were wearing absolutely nothing. Clothing is a basic necessity and one of the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Having clothes gives you an identity, gives you a purpose and dignity. People who live in the developed world have no idea what it is like to have nothing to your name and how having one item of clothes which is yours only, you don’t have to share, just yours, can be the little seed which will grow. The charity’s motto is “We’re not just sending dresses, we are sending Hope

Watch this – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (always good to remind yourself)

We all have talents and gifts, when I was sewing my dresses I was thinking I was sending these to African countries and that my dresses would be saving the children. These dresses will not change their lives in a day and I am not saving these children. But it is a partnership, these children deserve the right to have the opportunity to develop into global citizens and to take up their place in their community and the world. One of these girls could become the leader of their country and allow it to prosper and years down the line they will teach me.

“Just because you can’t count it doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.” Sir Ken Robinson

The Michigan Difference

Contributed by Brittany Tang

Michigan

After spending three weeks at the University of Michigan, I am starting to feel the energy in the air, the buzz of academia, the passion and excitement of being part of what is essentially a small city. The first week I dipped my toes into the academic pool of my classes. I got used to what was expected of me and how to succeed. After I felt sufficiently settled and comfortable with my studies I started searching for leadership positions and community service based clubs to join.

I ran for and was elected President of the Events Planning Committee (EPC) for the HSSP (Health Sciences Scholar’s Program) community. As the President, I help facilitate weekly EPC meetings, I design agendas and communicate with the representatives from each HSSP committee. I am also a member of the HSSP Community Service Committee. Myself, along with others in the committee plan service endeavors for the HSSP community: volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House for families with children in critical condition, volunteering at Indian Trails Camp for children and adults with disabilities, ect. I recently received an email from a 4th year MD PhD student who is working to establish an NGO to help provide health care for people in Uganda. A group of  students including myself, will be establishing a sister program for the undergraduate school to raise awareness for the NGO Progressive Health Partnership (PHP) as well as raise some funds. The link to the project is as follows: Progressive Health Partnership | People Helping People. I am also part of an organization called the VIEW (Volunteers Involved Every Week).  The mission of this organization is to “empower students to become educated leaders and create social change in partnership with local organizations and communities”. This club in particular, stood out to me because of its emphasis on global citizenship and community service. I am very excited to be part of the team!

Finally, from a more academic point of view this past week has been extremely busy because I am in the process of searching for undergraduate research opportunities. I sent out multiple applications for multiple research projects and I have had lots of very educational interviews. I am really enjoying the entire process of finding a project I am interested in researching to securing a place on the research team. I have yet to commit to a particular project, at the moment, however by next week I will have my research position. Overall, I think the most important thing to remember is that balance is so incredibly important. Attending university has really challenged me in a positive way and has allowed me to grow into the individual I endeavor to be. I hope to continue down this path of leadership, service, academia and research and I am very excited to see how this first year turns out!

To read more posts by Brittany please click here.

Acting local and thinking global with Anita

Contributed by Anita van Dam – a Global Ambassador

Since the beginning of this Year I have started working at a zoo in Kerkrade, Netherlands, called the Gaia Park. I go there once a week when possible where I work with the primates, for example cleaning the cage, creating recreational activities and making their food and feeding them.

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As a member of the EAG (Environment Action Group) in the school, we collaborated with IKEA for them to switch off all their lights during Earth Hour to raise awareness. I was the supervisor for the group and we also handed out leaflets to costumers and told them about the event and asked them to participate.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour

During my holiday, I bumped into Nancy Gibson* from the Love Wildlife Foundation. She and a few others were heading for a meeting to talk about the opening of the New Dolphinarium in Phuket and so I asked to join in. Below is a link to a rerun on the Phuket News TV about the event.

*Nancy Gibson will feature on a post under speakers soon
Anita and Nancy in Phuket

Anita and Nancy in Phuket

Anita meeting with the Love Wildlife team in Phuket

Anita meeting with the Love Wildlife team in Phuket

I am now in Direct contact with the people there and will be raising awareness in the Netherlands and the other United World Colleges in attempt to make this international.
Making Thai krathongs

Making Thai krathongs

I attended project week where I went to Poland with 5 other students to work with an organisation called Siemacha who work with children who need help in studies or whose parents do not have time to take care of them. Here I led a session where I taught the students about Thailand and had an activity where I taught them how to make krathongs.
The International Fair

The International Fair

Another event that I joined was the International Fair where I had my own Thai stand with pictures and items from Thailand as well as cooking some Thai dishes such as fried rice, rice with Thai omelette, kao man kai and sweet pork shred with sticky rice. I also participated in the international fashion show.
Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

I also participated in Storytelling Bakery where we learned how to make cupcakes as well as decorate them. We had a story attached to each cupcake that related to each other and had the cupcakes decorated to match the story.
MUN in Italy

MUN in Italy

I have also participated in an MUN conference in Italy with the school United World College Adriatic. It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun. I made many new friends as well as learned the procedures while also getting to see the city. The topics were against me therefore I had to work harder and make my points strong in order to protect my country (India) which was being accused of things we had not done.
Thanks for the update Anita and good luck with your studies in your final year of school at UWC Maarstricht. Please keep us posted with your progress and achievements.  
The GC Award Team.
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Chipseng Thor – a man all about community partnerships

Chipseng with his wife Char by the Seuang River

Chipseng with his wife Char by the Seuang River

Last week I had the pleasure to spend three days with an amazing man and good friend who lives in Laos.  I was fortunate to meet Chipseng in early 2011 through a mutual friend of ours on a community project in Laos (one of the best service projects that I have experienced).  After observing Chipseng passionately lead the project and masterfully connect the visiting group and the local community he knows so well together I decided to invite him to Thailand later that year to experience an international school setting and to allow as many of our students and staff to learn from Chipseng as I had done.  It was great to be able to get the chance to take my family to Luang Prabang in northern Laos and to meet Chipseng and his family and to find out a lot more about what makes this man such an inspiring community leader and developer of educational partnerships.

The mountain along Seuang River where Chipseng was born

The mountain along Seuang River where Chipseng was born

Chipseng was born north east of Luang Prabang in the countryside along the Seuang River that flows into the Mekong.  He is Hmong, people that traditionally live in the highest mountain areas of Laos and other parts of South East Asia. He moved to Luang Prabang when he was only 7 years old to study because, as he told me, he had the ‘authority’ then to leave his family, even though he was the youngest son and was expected to stay in the village and look after the family.  At that time there were no roads and he had to trek and take a boat along the river for two days to get to Luang Prabang.

At that time Chipseng could only speak Hmong. He had to learn the Laos language when he got to school and spent 8 years studying and living at the government school in Luang Prabang. The school was started to give children from the rural areas an opportunity of an education.  He then attended high school for three years and met Chan, his wife. They married after high school and Chipseng’s parents came to live with them in Luang Prabang. He wanted to go to university but had to support the family and joined the Laos Army instead for 3 years. During his time in the army he felt there was a lack of opportunity to develop himself and to also support the community so he left the army and went to teacher training college and studied English for 3 years whilst working freelance as a tour guide. He joined Educational Travel Asia 4 years ago after meeting Graham Harper* on a project. Chipseng is now the project manager for ETA Laos.

*Soon to be be featured under speakers

Chipseng with the Headteachers of Pak Xeng School in a typical classroom

Chipseng with the Headteachers of Pak Xeng School in a typical classroom

Chipseng really loves his job and you can see it.  He knows everyone and he has their full trust and loyalty.  He is one of those unique people that can connect and bring people together to create mutually beneficial learning outcomes and sustainable partnerships.  He repeatedly tells me that he is happy that through his work he has a good opportunity to help and support the local people and his community. He believes it is important to develop international understanding amongst the Laos people but also tourists and international students that visit Laos.

Chipseng is passionate about the partnership of education and tourism and the symbiotic role they should have on one another. He uses a teacher who has not travelled as an example and  questions how that person can impart knowledge and understanding effectively without understanding other people and cultures.  He wants this for the Laos teachers and is working closely with Graham Harper and ETA to ensure that the communities and the schools along Seuang River benefit directly and in a sustainable manner from the increase in tourism and also from international educational partnerships.  A number of international schools and universities already work with Chipseng and visit Seuang River on an annual basis.

Pak Xeng School classroom

Pak Xeng School classroom

Chipseng took my family and I to Pak Xeng, a village about 3 hours from Luang Prabang.  We were honoured to have been hosted by a home-stay family (something every international student and educator should experience) and visited the primary and secondary school.  We met the students, the teachers and also the headteachers and shared a number of facts about our own schools and experiences.  One standout fact is that Pak Xeng Secondary School has 60 – 70 students per class.  You could tell the teachers work very hard and do their very best for the students and never complain. Chipseng and the headteachers showed me around some of the classrooms and explained that the next project is to improve the roof (which was falling down) and to replace the broken desks and benches (see photos).  I said to them that these classrooms were obviously not being used at present and they quickly replied that there were and that there was nowhere else to teach the students.

The roof above the classrooms

The roof above the classrooms

Chipseng and ETA are looking for educational partners to support the Pak Xeng School project.  The approximate cost to replace the roof and to improve the classrooms is $12,000.  If you think your university, your school, your social group, your family or yourself as an individual would like to support this project and/or visit Seuang River as part of a service learning community project then please do contact Chipseng or Graham below:

chipseng@buffalotours.com

graham@buffalotours.com

I highly recommend Seuang River as a place to visit and a community to connect with and there is no better person to do that through than with Chipseng Thor.