23 July – 11 August 2016
On 23 July 2016, VSP welcomed back the Year 9 students of Firbank Grammar School from Melbourne, Australia. Firbank has been one of VSP’s regular guests and this time ninety-nine girls and eight staff arrived in Thailand for their three-week epic adventure.
Firbank experiences one of the most unique and diverse programs delivered by VSP and the Barge, as all girls will spend time with the Barge Program too. The big group is split into four smaller ones and they rotate through four main portions of the trip that focus on different aspects: Culture and Adventure in Chiang Mai, Elephants and Issues in Chaing Rai, Ecology and History with the Barge and a large Community Service Project in Chiang Dao.
One of highlights of the trip was the visit to the area around the point where the Ruak flows into the Mekong. These two rivers separate the three countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, giving the region the title of the Golden Triangle.
Whilst there, the girls spent a day with elephants at the Asian Elephant Foundation. The girls learnt about the situation of elephants in Thailand; how influential this species is to Thai culture, as well as looking at elephant health and well-being from a scientific standpoint, with the support of trained veterinarians onsite.
“The elephant Foundation was outstanding. We got to do something that you can’t do anywhere else.” – Abby.
The group’s enjoyment of the trip did not stop there. Feedback suggested that the majority of the students’ most memorable experience was working on the Community Service project at Baan Mae Mae School in Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand. This is a school that Firbank has visited for several years and this time, the Year 9s built a hand-mixed concrete path that links the local girls’ dorm to the school playground. This will be tremendously beneficial for all who use it, especially during the rainy season as it reduces flooding in the area, allowing for a more comfortable setting. This was also a chance for many students – irrespective of age, gender or nationality – to bond and enjoy meaningful interactions. It is our hope that the experience felt by both the local and Firbank students will have a positive and lasting impact on each and everyone presented.
“I loved community service and being able to meet the children and play games with them. The school that we went to was so kind and really welcomed us with open arms.” – Katie.
“This trip has been such an amazing experience. I have loved every bit of it. Thank you! - Sophie.
“It is the best experience of all the activities in Firbank!” – Catherine.