Sightseeing, service and survival
It was all hands on deck as VSP ran six completely different programs for CIS this March. Despite a delayed flight leaving the students a little short on sleep, Group 5 did an amazing job of keeping their energy levels up as they took on a big day packed full of adventure.
There was definitely something for everyone in their itinerary and the first two days of their trip were spent in Pa Sak Ngam village. After stopping at the impressive Ban Den Temple en route, local man, Chai, showed us the way to a bat cave hidden in the beautiful forest surrounding his village. The cave used to be the home of a monk and we talked about how people have been living in caves for many thousands of years.
After lunch we shifted the theme from natural homes to man-made dwellings (albeit made from natural materials) as the students made their own shelters from bamboo sticks and banana leaves.
Continuing with the survival theme, next up was bamboo cooking. We enjoyed a late-morning snack of vegetable soup and sticky rice cooked in freshly cut bamboo, plus sweet potatoes thrown straight in the fire. Some of the students were surprised to see that underneath the charred skin, the bright orange flesh still tasted amazing!
The following day was a day of community service. CIS had met the previous evening to discuss their plan for painting a beautiful mural on the local kindergarten. There was a hot debate about what the theme of the mural should be: outer space, weather, fantasy scenes etc. so in the end we all decided that it could be a combination of everything! The result was stunning and the kids and their parents were really excited to see their new wall; they immediately started to play “spot the turtle” and “find the robot”.
As well as painting the mural, the students from Singapore helped with an ongoing project to clear firebreaks near the main road going in and out of the village. As the village lies at the head of an important reservoir, a lot of time is invested in making sure the area’s forests are protected: more trees means better water retention and less strain on resources during Chiang Mai’s long dry season.
Even our supervisor, who usually works with adult volunteer groups, was blown away by the amount of work CIS were able to carry out. Over the course of a few hours we estimated that over 3km was cleared.
Of course, no trip to the jungle is complete without checking out a few bugs on the way. This colourful lanternfly was spotted hanging out on a tree right next to one of the shelters on the first afternoon.