29 June – 4 July
For their Community Service project, Garden travelled north to Mae Jon. Over the course of three days they were to finish an on-going project to build a new classroom in the village. The Mae Fah Luang Learning Centre has been operating there since 2001 and provides education for all age groups, including evening lessons for adults who did not complete their schooling when they were younger.
There is a government school a few kilometres away, along a bumpy dirt road, that some of the children in Mae Jon attend but others remain in the village and are taught by the Learning Centre’s only teacher, Kru Nong. We interviewed her about the project on the final day.
How many students do you have at the school and how old are they? We have 16 students aged three and up, including one autistic child.
What are we building today? There are five things to do today: painting the walls, concreting, making blackboards, painting flags, making snacks and donating rubbish bins.
How will this project help the school? Many ways! All of the community will benefit. We can use the new building for community activities and meetings and for studying, including teaching children who cannot go to school in the city.
How many different groups have been involved with completing the new building? A lot! It has taken about six months to finish. In January there were five groups from Singapore [Overseas Family School], in February MLC [Australia] were here for five days and in April a school from China came [Beijing World Youth Academy].
How do you feel about them coming to help? I am very glad. I’m glad that I can talk to VSP and get help from them but also happy that the local people come to help as well.
The village is home to around 150 people, mostly of Dara-Ang ethnicity – a tribe that first entered Thailand around thirty years ago and has since spread into about eight villages, mostly in Chiang Mai province.
Some of the villagers set up a market for us before we left
Most of the work to be completed was to paint murals inside and outside of the new classroom. Garden School have built up a reputation at VSP as amazing artists and this year they certainly didn’t disappoint us. For three days the classroom was taken over by busy students converting the previously bare walls into masterpieces.
With many hands helping out there was also time to complete a concrete walkway and paint the ASEAN flags on planters that will soon be filled with soil and have trees planted in them.
Hopefully our guests from Garden School will have gone home feeling proud of what they have done and both the students visiting from Malaysia and the local Dara-Ang children have given each other a memory to treasure for a long time.
Gifts were exchanged at the end of the project