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October 2018: Australian International School, Dhaka

Service Learning with Hill Tribes in Thailand

“Build that wall!”

This was the motto of AIS Dhaka during their time in Thailand with VSP.

They came in search of culture and adventure, but above all, they came to serve. The central mission of the week was to build a wall for a remote hill tribe school. Anubaan Pa Lai School doesn’t receive funding from the government and so relies on the help of non-governmental organisations. To prepare, AIS Dhaka learned about Thailand’s northern hill tribes and the issues they face.

The student’s commitment to the project was further strengthened upon meeting the school’s young students. The children come from nearby Akha and Karen villages and were naturally very excited to meet the foreigners. The feeling was mutual and so the first morning was spent playing together and exchanging cultures. Over the next two days, AIS Dhaka were hard at work building the perimeter wall. They mixed tub after tub of cement and laid hundreds of bricks until the job was finally complete. The school is now free of the worry of students wandering into the neighbouring rice fields.

An essential element of the IB Diploma Program is CAS, requiring each student to show Creativity, Activity and Service. Building the wall for Anubaar Pa Lai School fulfilled the service element but AIS Dhaka’s visit to Chiang Mai also included activities and creative learning too.

The activities were numerous. AIS Dhaka enjoyed the challenge of biking and kayaking in the beauty of Sri Lanna National Park. They went top-rope climbing on the VSP wall and had an introduction to Muay Thai boxing from a former pro fighter. Each activity was a new experience for most of the students and many left keen to continue their new hobby.

Their creativity was channelled into textile weaving in the Karen hill tribe style. This was taught by a Karen teacher who learned growing up in her village. Getting hands on experience gave the students insight into the time, effort and care needed to craft clothing by hand. The students learned a new skill and also gained an appreciation for the hard work required to create things that they take for granted.

By the end of the trip, AIS Dhaka had learned so much about the Thai people and their diverse culture. It was a week of unforgettable experiences and discovery, but best of all it was a week that truly helped others. The saying rings true: in helping others, you help yourself.

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