Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Delivering Relief Packs

A boy named Noppawin and his father joined our team
distributing relief supplies.

This post may not seem to have much to do with education and learning, but Saturday was an amazing day of new experiences for me.

Thailand has been in the midst of terrible flooding for several months now. Six to eight weeks ago, Bangkok was threatened with these floods. Much of Bangkok and the surrounding areas did flood, though "inner Bangkok" including where I live stayed dry. We missed some school and had some challenges to make up those days, but we have been generally unaffected.

The school, though, wanted to find a way to help. We had a collection box set up for World Vision which was a start. There are quite a few opportunities around town to help via donations or assistance packing relief kits, but there was a desire among some of us to go to the "front lines" of the flood work. It was through twitter that I found the work @TeresaTung at another international school in Bangkok was doing. She was mentioned in a CNN report (which you can read here). I followed the breadcrumbs of information Teresa was dropping on twitter and found this website that detailed their work through the Bangkok Service Conference. Teresa was gracious enough to allow several students and teachers from our school to join in their activities.

On Friday we were to pack relief kits. Traffic was horrible and a 25 minute trip took 90 minutes, so we arrived too late to help with the packing. Saturday morning was much better, though, and we were able to arrive in time to load the trucks with the 800 relief packs, 600 meals, and nine boats that were distributed to five different neighborhoods.

I went on a school bus, then transferred to the back of a cargo-type truck (where we left the door open) and finally transferred to one of our donated boats to assist with distribution. I was touched to see the gratitude of the people who are living, and have been living for weeks, in filthy waist-high water. In one of the small villages we went to, people would lean out their second story windows and sometimes climb out on their roofs to get their relief packs filled with rice, tinned food, water, and other necessities.
She's on her roof and receiving just a small bag of supplies,
but her smile made the whole day worthwhile.

It was a long and tiring day, but I would do the trip again in a heartbeat. When I woke up the next morning, I could not help but think of the people who woke up another morning to water that had not  yet receded. Even now 48 hours later, they are probably still living surrounded by the filthy water without access to the basic necessities of life.

On the bus ride home, my husband had a chance to talk with two students from the sponsoring school. We were both very impressed by their maturity. This trip for them may have been part of the CAS component of the IB Curriculum. This has opened my mind to another aspect of the IB Curriculum. Creativity Action and Service. This weekend I saw those aspects implemented in a way that truly touches lives in a tangible way.

Educational pundits often demand evidence of such claims. Here it is in the form of a translated note from the village we went to:

Dear teachers and students of the New International School of Thailand and the Biking team from Baan-Fah Piyarom village,

We are so happy to have been touched by such a small group of people with such big hearts. We are very grateful for your courage that has made you reach out to help us. Your help has given so many people hope to stay strong in this time of crisis. The things you brought for us have been very helpful to our community.

And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

The people of our village

And from one of the students who went on the trip:

I am so glad to have been able to take part in this trip. Nothing will ever top that moment when we, although complete strangers, exchanged smiles as though we have known each other for the longest time. Please let me know if you would like me to send the flood victims a message and I will help to translate as much as I can. I will also send them a link to the video of the pictures and clips from both Friday and Saturday once it is done.


This is what education should do. Affect people. Connect people. Improve lives.


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