Back in 2017 VSP staff Mike Horrocks attended the Empower Action Workshop to learn about the different ways that schools and organisations are approaching service learning. He came back to Chiang Mai feeling inspired to strengthen the capacity for service as a positive experience for our students and host communities. Later that year, VSP was given the chance to implement the first of our ideas thanks to Bromsgrove International School from Bangkok, who agreed to send some students up to Chiang Mai ahead of their trip to visit the site of their project, talk to some of the villagers and collect photos and information to share with their peers back at school.
Fast forward to 2019 (after four student visits, six days of manual work and plenty of planning and fundraising days) and in the eyes of Khun Ap, of Makhampom Foundation – an organisation that has a long history of working to empower the members of Pang Daeng Nok village – the Bromsgrove students have “finally turned a deserted, dangerous area into a place that is ready for many kinds of activities, creating a lot of meaningful moments for the whole community in the future.”
The concept was simple: carry out a project that is researched and designed by students, which will positively impact a real life issue facing a local community. However, the specific goal of the project, created by Khun Ap in consultation with the villagers, was not a guaranteed success:
Reclaim an area of the village from being used as a hangout space by gangs of youths from neighbouring villages and turn it into a hub of activity, including a communal play area and study centre, that the villagers can be proud of.
The final result is a newly renovated classroom with a playground outside as well as petanque and takraw courts for the adults. And, importantly, the gangs are staying away. The journey has been a learning curve for everyone involved but has undoubtedly been a huge success. The story is not completely over as the equipment will need regular maintenance, but as long as the relationship between Bromsgrove IS and Pang Daeng Nok continues there will never be a shortage of volunteers to help.
“I can see myself volunteering in the future at an orphanage” – Nancy
“The challenge week made me realise that as a class, we can be very effective and are capable of making a significant difference to the lives of the children in Pang Daeng.” – Mo
“While working as a team I got to get closer to my classmates, some of whom I never thought I would even talk to or interact with. The time I spend with a team with all the same goals and interest showed me that no matter our differences we are all the same and are all capable of working together to achieve something so much greater.” – Richard
“I had an amazing time on the Chiang Mai trip. I learned the difficulties if the villagers and the history of their suffering as well as growth. It has raised my motivation to continue to work hard in hopes of achieving something better. In the future, I would like to return to help with anything with which they may need assistance.” – Nina T.
“Looking back at the final outcome of our hard work and happiness in the villagers' eyes gives me a sense of fulfillment. This made me more aware of how fortunate I am.” – Nina C
“The service trip to Chiang Mai was a great experience and has made me more mature. The projects that we’ve done have helped the community massively. We painted the school and built the school playground which has increased the learning opportunities for the kids in that village. I’ve learnt that it is important to help people who actually need support. I’ve also gained team working skills since building the playground and painting the school cannot be done by one person, but it needs other students’ help as well. I think working as a team allowed our friendships to become even closer and gave me an opportunity to talk to the people to whom I don’t usually talk. Overall, it was a great trip for me and the trip taught me the way to grow up as a kind human being.” – Raf
“I learnt that even something as simple as painting, takes a lot of time and effort to plan.” – Kyu-min