For this service trip, there were nine of us, including one non-barge staff, which had all volunteered to go and run a special trip with Karen hill-tribe students who live in Kanchanaburi.
On the first day, we arrived around 3.00 pm and enthusiastically started our activities. The students had anticipated our arrival for a long time, ever since they had heard from their teacher that we were coming to work with them. We introduced ourselves using the Birthday Line-up game. The students loved it very much. After that, we played many fun ice-breaking games, as we really wanted to get to get to know them more. We played until 5.00 pm before explaining about the rest of the camp and sending them home to be ready for the next day’s full activity. After they had gone, we went to the only community forest left in the area, to see the place where we were going to make the dyke on the last day.
Day Two started at 9.00 am and was a full day of activity. We set up three stations of games about water and the environment: Race for the Sun- talking about the needs of trees and the problems they face; Just Passing Through - which deals with deforestation and the movement of sediment through the watershed; and Kiwi Ball which considers habitat loss and human impact. We could not help but see the big smiles on everyone’s face as they happily participated. After this happy morning, we had lunch together at the school. Afterwards, we continued with another three stations: Oh! Deer - about the carrying capacity of a natural environment; Webbing - to consider the interconnectedness of an ecosystem; and Common Water - which deals with the problems caused by too much demand on a resource. Although there were many activities and lots of running, the kids did not show any reluctance or tiredness at all, which helped staff’ energy to stay high too. This second day went by really quickly and everybody was very happy.
On the third day of camp, we headed to the community forest to make our dyke. When the vehicles arrived, the kids spread out quickly as they knew this forest very well and they wanted to look for mushrooms! Then, when we were all back together at the dyke making place, we helped each other to collect the proper sized rocks, while the teenage boys helped to cut the bamboo and build the dyke frame.
We definitely learned a lot and exchanged lots of knowledge with them during this activity. Pa, service project organizer from the Barge Program reflected, “I think it’s the most important thing that all students know how important this forest is. That they know and understand all the things forests give them, not only food, clean air but fun times too, then they will love the forest and want to protect it as their forest.”
Although we had a free afternoon, the students requested to learn English, so we did not hesitate to give them a fun class. At the end, the teacher commented, “They gained a lot from having you all here. They have never concentrated or tried to learn English or any other knowledge that we prepared, like this before. Can you come back every weekend?” That feeling meant a lot to us as all.
On the final evening, we ran a closing session using activities and VDOs with songs about the King. Many parents joined in the games and activities. At last, we said farewell to them all and sent them home with hearts full of happiness and the hope that we could come back again soon.