ODAC OCIP, Thailand
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma Gandhi
From 18th November to 1st December 2016, 17 Year 5 students set off to Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai on a service-learning program to discover what it meant to truly serve the community, albeit in a completely foreign environment. Throughout our challenging journey, the sincerity displayed to us by our recipients, and hosts alike, resonated deeply within our hearts. This reinforced our conviction to help the people around us in any way possible.
The first six days were spent at Somdejya School, a boarding school situated in the mountains near Mae Cheam. The teachers and students welcomed us with much generosity and sincerity, which drove us to go above and beyond. Other than the teaching of English language, we also shared with them about our culture, values and knowledge beyond lesson time. We joined the students in various project-based activities, such as rice harvesting and building traditional mud houses, aimed to teach independence and self-sustainability. The students’ diligence in improving one’s own living conditions inspired us the importance of teamwork in achieving a common goal. We have also learnt to be more appreciative of the little things we once took for granted back in Singapore.
Next, we moved on to Chumchomtomthapha and Mae Chaem School, where the profiles of the students compared to that of Somdejya School were different, in terms of learning styles and language ability. Despite these obstacles, the motivation to prepare and deliver effective lessons only became stronger. We had learnt so much from the students through teaching, in terms commitment and perseverance in the face of challenges.
The time spent during the walk up the mountains to Lahu Village gave us the chance to bond with one another in midst of the mountainous and panoramic view. Although the walk was long and tiring, we constantly lent each other a helping hand and gave encouragements. The strong team resilience we exhibited kept us in high spirits.
We would like to show our gratitude to everyone who had taken care of us. Firstly, much thanks to our volunteers from Voluntary Spirit Association (VSA), P’Jam and P’Mickey, who provided us with timely translations in face of a large language barrier. They also shared with us about the circumstances and cultures of the local community. Most importantly, they have showed us the spirit they embodied in putting their foot forward in serving the local communities they passionately cared for. We would like to thank the owners of the homestay in Mae Cheam, who allowed us to immerse in the simple yet rejuvenating lifestyle of the locals. We would also like to thank the teachers of the schools we visited for supporting us despite our lack of experience and the inconveniences we made.
This trip to Mae Chaem, Chiang Mai had been an unforgettable experience for all of us. A few of the many takeaways we had gained from this trip include the discovery of the heart to serve and the humility towards learning. Above all, our mentor could not have put better in words, “Can you change the world? No, but what you can change is yourself.”