Posted: May 1, 2017
Last week, we welcomed Suzhou Industrial Park School to our Phang Nga base for a one-week Service Learning programme. The students worked on a wide range of projects whilst developing their learning and reflection skills.
Our main project was constructing a garden and painting the main school building at Ban Nok Na School, located on the beautiful nearby island of Koh Koh Khao. We got creative and designed a vegetable plot, a vine garden, flower pots from used tyres, planted trees and built a hanging herb garden from old plastic bottles and bamboo sticks. It was hard work digging and planting, especially during the hottest week of the year in Thailand! But, knowing that we were doing this for a school who really needed our help and by keeping up our motivation as a team, it was definitely worth it.
The students were hugely interested in our conservation efforts here in Phang Nga. We trained them in turtle and mangrove conservation, as well as marine litter awareness, before taking them out on the respective projects to put the theory into practice. We scrubbed tanks and cleaned turtles, visited mangroves on a boat trip and did a beach clean on one of our local beaches.
Each evening, after coming back from project, we all came together to participate in a reflection session. This is a very important part of service learning, to understand why we are doing the work we do and how it has changed perspectives or opinions.
We discussed something we did on project that surprised us, such as why conserving mangroves is so important, or an interesting fact about a turtle species. One student said, “I was completely shocked by the level of marine litter we cleaned up and the harmful effects of a plastic water bottle on the environment.” As well as working on projects, the group became immersed in the local culture. They were surprised at how different their expectations of culture in Thailand were before they arrived, compared to how they experienced here.
“The Thai culture is extraordinary, the people are always smiling and the street dogs are much more friendly than the ones in China.”
“There were are many interesting customs here which we don’t have back at home, such as taking off our shoes before entering buildings and doing the Wai.”
We also had a Thai cooking lesson and shared our dishes with the rest of the group, an enjoyable experience and something the group really wanted to learn. A village tour gave the students an opportunity to see how Thai people live, try some local deserts and visit the markets. They also had a chance to practice a few words of Thai and understand the local customs.
So what did the students take home from their week with us? In our final reflection session, we had an in depth discussion about the things the group had learnt or been inspired by during their week here, both personally and professionally.
One student explained, “The hot weather was a challenge and many of us were doing tasks such as gardening or handling turtles for the very first time, but by understanding the importance of the work we were doing, it motivated us to develop our team work and communication skills and enjoy the projects we were working on.”
Another said, “Now that I have experienced environmental issues in Thailand, I am inspired to educate people back home and try to make a difference.”
We are delighted that this group had such a successful Service Learning trip with us and that they worked hard whilst progressing in personal development too! We are looking forward to the other groups who are coming over the summer and hope they will have an amazing experience with us.