“When you sow goodness into the lives of others, you reap in abundance the joy that the act of giving brings.”
UCIS Interact Club Community Service Trip Reflections - Baan Pak Dek Phraporn, Chiang Rai
By Miss Shelagh Li, Interact Club Teaching Supervisor
On May 24th – 26th, 9 high school students from the Interact Club and 8 members of staff headed up to Mae Suai, Chiang Rai, on our first ever Interact community service trip to bring donations to and visit the children at our partner charity, Baan Pak Dek Phraporn, after months of planning and preparation. Including the donations of food, clothes, etc., we also raised and donated 32,000 Baht.
Baan Pak Dek Phraporn has been around for about five years, and currently is home to 54 children ages 4-17, and 10 members of staff, who are all from the Lahu hilltribe. Many of the children who were brought to the home come from extreme poverty, broken families, where one or both parents are either deceased, addicted to drugs, or in jail, and were in high risk of exploitation (it is not uncommon for girls as young as the age of 12 to be married off, and boys to be at high risk of being sold into human trafficking). Living at the orphanage with Pastor David, and his wife Sanglar, offers these children and youth the chance to receive an education, food, and a safe environment to live in. What struck me the most on this trip, however, was how happy the children there were even though they had so little.
The first night we arrived at the orphanage to meet the children, they ran out to us with their hands together, giggling and greeting us with “sawasdee’s” and the biggest hugs. We later found out that we were the first team to actually go to them and spend quality time with them in the past five years! It was heartwarming to see how well they were cared for and how much love they received from Pastor David, Sanglar and all the other staff at the orphanage. They are taught to love God, love others, and this was so evident during the tome we were there. When they were given snacks, they insisted on sharing with us and even fed us the snacks to make sure we were eating as well, even though something as simple as a bag of chips was a rarity for them. I couldn’t help but feel so overwhelmed by the amount of love that surrounded us for those three days even though we were complete strangers.
This was most of the UCIS students’ first trip of this kind and most of them had no common language with the children. However, their will to make the children’s weekend memorable and joyful was so strong that it broke all the barriers that were standing in their way of communicating with the kids at the orphanage. It was absolutely amazing to see how inclusive the UCIS students were, and how they were able to get big group games going without using any spoken words, but rather, very enthusiastic body language and physical touch. The students also had a debriefing session after our Saturday day-camp and unanimously agreed that this trip was eye-opening, life-changing, and that they couldn’t wait to return again. They realized that the comfortable life they lived was not a given, and that there were so many things they considered “basics”, such as a bed to sleep in or the ability to take a hot shower, were a luxuries for the kids who live in the orphanage. The troubles they face were trivial when put into perspective with the troubles the kids face, such as not having enough food to get through the day. Needless to say, I was the proudest teacher this weekend, watching my students selflessly give their time and love to build up those who are less fortunate in our community, and being able to reflect on their own lives and what they can do to help others!
This is just the beginning of our partnership with Baan Pak Dek Phraporn. They still have so much need that we, as a school community, can help out with including: - Quality time and love which we, on future trips, can bring - Support for daily necessities such as rice, eggs, and other nutritious foods - Support for basic medication and hygienic products, such as sanitary napkins for the girls - Support for school supplies (the Thai Government provides free education for all children, but they are responsible for purchasing their own uniforms, books, and stationery items) - Funds to complete their dormitory buildings to ensure a safe environment for them to be living in (they are currently living in shacks made of tin which leak during heavy rains and become rusty, posing all sorts of potential health threats).
I would like to take some time to say some special thank-you’s to those who made this weekend possible. Firstly, thank you to Miss Elaine, our school nurse, and her husband, Ajarn Paris, for linking us up with Baan Pak Dek Phraporn and giving our students the chance to do something bigger than themselves. Thank you to our administration staff, everyone who had a part of helping us finalize our weekend plans, corresponding with the Ministry of Education, keeping our finances on track, supplying our students’ paperwork, and so much more. Thank you to the teachers, students, P Su, P Aek, and Ize, for selflessly sacrificing your weekend, coming along on the trip, and being a part of such wonderful memories. Lastly, thank you to our amazing community of selfless students and parents, who have given their thoughts, supplies, and monetary donations from Pajama Day to better the lives of the children at the orphanage; you have made this world a better place with your love and care and we hope that you will continue to join us as we continue to partner with Baan Pak Dek Phraporn in the future!
All photos provided by UCIS Photography and Media team.
Our first ever official school-wide fundraiser was a massive hit! Thanks to our generous Unity family, we are immensely grateful to have been able to raise a total of more than 40,000 THB for our partner orphanage in Chiang Rai from both U1 and U2 campuses. This amount will be going towards their dormitory buildings and will be presented to Pastor David during our community outreach trip in mid-May.