Aware, Able, Act

Have you ever heard a tree breathe?

Have you ever heard a tree breathe?

Aware, Able, Act:  separately three simple words but together they combine to make a very powerful vision.  A school’s curriculum or learning programme (as I prefer to call it) is very similar to this concept.  We constantly use words to describe and explain all aspects of education and teaching, each one with their own relevance to specific students and their progress through school, each one seemingly important in their own right: assessment, holistic, standards, creativity, progress, leadership, independent, collaborative, the list goes on…  These words can look and sound very impressive and you will often see them on most school’s websites, in prospectuses and throughout publicity materials that promote and explain elements of a curriculum.  They mean very little though if there is nothing to bring them together, to link them like a helix that intertwines through everything a school does for its students and make learning authentic.  A really good school will have a learning programme that does this, and will be fully aware of the ‘DNA’ that brings these words and their impact on the students alive.

crushing egg shells for fertiliser

crushing egg shells for fertiliser

Aware:  All schools provide students with knowledge; it is the basis of education and the key objective to passing tests and exams ultimately gaining qualifications to (apparently?) be successful in life.  There is a lot more to life than just passing examinations therefore we want our students to be inquirers and critical thinkers to become socially and emotionally intelligent, not solely to be spoon-fed and reliant upon the passing of information, there is so much more to know, to feel and to find out.  Realistically students today can find the answer to anything without a teacher (my son is forever on Youtube watching National Geographic); the important thing is the process and how to gain the knowledge and questioning its validity.

what a learning environment!

what a learning environment!

Able:  Education is not from the neck up!  It is important to allow our students to learn in the ways that best suit them, to use all of their senses, emotions and skills, to be able to learn outside of the box.  A good test (for the students and teacher!) would be to observe a class with no teacher and to see what the students would do?  Giving children the knowledge and making them aware is important but a good programme will also ‘equip’ them, give them the tools and the confidence to use their knowledge, to be independent learners and to share it with others.

we dance together

we dance together

Act:  Too many people make the mistake of jumping straight into action.  Without real awareness and the vested time in life skills, cultural awareness and confidence building then this can be a negative experience rather than a proactive one and in the long-term this can be quite damaging in many ways.  With accurate and detailed knowledge and a confident skill set young people are empowered to make a difference, and they will.  This is not a powerful vision but a reality.

going above and beyond for learning

going above and beyond for learning

The Global Citizenship Award realizes this reality and helps young people graduate from school:  Aware, Able and Acting.  You to can also be part of this learning experience and make the most of your potential as a global citizen.  Choose an Identity, set yourself a challenging target and get reflecting – we look forward to hearing from you soon.

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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

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.

anita6anita7

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.

Ending Gender Inequality

Contributed by Anita van Dam

Anita on the beach with a student from the Camillian Centre

Anita on the beach with a student from the Camillian Centre

As part of her Global Ambassador Award submission Anita included this article that she wrote on Ending Gender Inequality as part of the Academic Achievement Identity.

Ending Gender Inequality

Did you know that two thirds of the world’s working hours are done by women, but they only earn 10% of the world’s income? Or that 60% of 77 million children without primary education are girls?

Research says that woman own less than 1% of the world’s property, and that out of 876 million adults worldwide that cannot read or write, two thirds of that are woman. 

Ever thought how gender inequality is stopping these beautiful humans from being treated fairly with respect and pride?

Gender inequality is one of the Millennium Development Goals that is considered heavily on and thought carefully through about how we can make every human being have equal chances, an equal say and equal opportunities, especially women and girls so they can be treated fairly. Girls should have a chance to learn to read and write and finish their schooling fully instead of being taken out in the middle of education to help their parents with work to allow their male relatives to learn. According to the United Nations Population Fund women who are educated are more likely to have fewer children, become pregnant at a more appropriate age than woman who were denied schooling and will have healthier children too. Most important, they are more likely to send their own children onto full education.

Furthermore, promoting gender inequality will have a positive effect on reducing poverty, another MDG that is extremely important and thoroughly thought through. When women get their healthy dose of education, they would be able to think carefully before doing something for example, they wouldn’t have more children than they can afford to take good care of. They would also be able to get a better and higher wage job which will also bring more respect to women throughout the community. With women getting more wages and fewer children, they would be able to take care of their family properly thus they would be free of poverty and reducing it.

Women with a voice make great role models in our human society with more ideas, ways to solving problems and are represented like the source of light in a dark atmosphere. By giving women a chance to vote and a chance to have a say is like allowing a hermit crab out of its shell and when that time comes, the Earth would become an unfolded map full of information.

Thailand has a few societies/foundations that help and encourage women to become brave and independent people who can express whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want. A very powerful person who believes in women and a book with unread mysteries is Khun Mechai. He believed in “giving women a choice” and made sure that women know how many children they’re going to have and that they and their children have a higher chance of good education and by that, you reduce the chance of a family not being able to care for their family and also increase confidence in women. Empowered women ultimately lead to an empowered community.

To conclude, I would like to say that I do believe that women need to be equal. We must have a say and equal chances and gender inequality must be stopped. We should also advertise about this so it becomes a well-known issue and everyone can help to end this. Remember, “If you educate a man, you educate a person but if you educate a woman, you educate a family.”

Thank you for reading,

Anita van Dam

Mekong Memories

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

I have always had a fascination for rivers. I always looked for them on maps tracking them across continents, through countries and comparing their physical features and statistics.

Growing up in the UK we always walked along rivers and I once had the misfortune (probably my own fault) to fall into the River Trent as a child! This didn’t put me off my fascination though and I enjoyed studying river systems and their morphology through school and into university. It is one of my favourite topics to teach bringing the river alive and helping students understand the interconnections that it plays in both our rural and urban landscapes.

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

To be able to visit and explore some of the worlds major rivers is a real treat – UK rivers are special but not the most majestic! I hope to tick a few more off my list in the near future. At present we are on a (slow) boat motoring down the Mekong River as it follows the Laos and Thai border and gradually takes us into northern Laos and towards our final destination, Luang Prabang.

On the slow boat

On the slow boat

The power is awesome, a snaking mass of brown water. A monster conveyor belt of muddy sediment that once formed the physical landscape of Central Asia. Like the ocean a river can humble you and make you realise the significance of your being – how many civilisations has the Mekong witnessed? How many more will it outlast? It brings life but also destruction.

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

I have had plenty of time to reflect the last two days on the slow boat and had challenged myself to be more creative and not just tot rely on photos. So Jonah and I wrote some poems and I even learnt from him what a haiku is. We dedicate the following to our inspiration – the River Mekong:

By Jonah:

Fast flowing river
Cold, freezing sometimes warm there
Starts from high mountains

Plants
Green, tall
Growing, drinking, eating
They give us oxygen
Animals

Water
Wet, cold
Raining, evaporating, drinking
Ones hot, ones cold
Steaming, killing, melting
Hot burns
Lava

By Paul:

Mother Mekong moves
Shifting sediment and land
Making its way home

Mekong
Asias greatest
Flows through time
Bringing people
Together

Many meandering miles
Emptying Eastern empires
King of all rivers
Onwards to the ocean
Never knowing, just
Growing and growing

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