Some photos from our fundraiser dinner, held on Friday, March 7. We raised over $7,000 for projects in Northern Thailand. Thank you for everyone who made it a success!
Here is a summary of the assignments that you will need to get credit for the course (and remember, it is a course!):
PRIOR TO LEAVING:
Short Research Assignment
This is a 2-3 page research report on a topic relevant to the trip. This will be done in groups of 2, on a topic of your choice (as long as it isn’t a topic someone else is doing). This report will be posted directly on this blog. Make sure that the report is referenced. Since this is a blog post, please include illustrations and hyperlinks to other sites whenever appropriate. Have fun with this one! If you need guidance, please ask Peter or Han, or check out the posts done by students from previous trips. Continue reading
You’ll need money in Thailand. In Thailand, the currency is the baht, and 32 baht is roughly equivalent to US $1. If you want to check the current exchange rates, a good site is xe.com. Dollars are not very widely accepted here in Thailand, so you will have to get some baht when you’re here.
Thailand is hot and humid, especially in May and June. The monsoon season is just beginning, and the air feels saturated with moisture. It may not be quite as hot as August in Salt Lake City, but the humidity leaves you soaking after just walking a city block. It’s tempting to wear a t-shirt and shorts all the time. And if we were in the US, we would. But we’re not in the US.
In most of Asia, academics is considered the highest level of achievement (even if it doesn’t pay like it). Becoming a professor is highly respected, and there is a lot of status in being a university student. Undergraduate students are expected to wear uniforms. Luckily, we will be doing service work, so we won’t need to dress up as much. But be aware that appearances are important in Asia, and as Americans we really do dress casually (dare I say slovenly) compared to the rest of the world. American tourists in particular seem to go out of their way to dress like….well…like tourists. There’s no other description. You can always tell who the American tourists are, and usually from a distance. We seem to insist on extreme casualness when on vacation. Maybe we want to escape the workplace so much, that we dress in completely opposite fashion. Granted, you will never completely pass as a native African or Asian (well, I can), regardless of your clothing, but you can show respect and courtesy towards your host culture by dressing as they do, and putting as much emphasis to appearances as they do. Continue reading
Here is the (relatively) final itinerary for May Term Thailand 2014. Please keep in mind that the itinerary can change at any time. Continue reading
By: Hannah Hegwood and Morgan Lendway
Upon arrival in the first village of Kalasin, I quickly noticed the simplicity of everything. The road was barely paved, packs of dogs roamed and open pastures lead up to a magnificent mountain range. The simplistic way of life stemmed from the home: which was a one level, not vey ornamental, mostly one room humble abode. It served its purpose as a shelter and a comforting place, somewhere I could easily call home. Everyone here had hardened hands and works hard to maintain their lifestyles. The people here were obviously slightly influenced by our annual visits and some seem to be adopting some of our western ideas. We were greeted warmly with hugs and some girls even wore tank tops, not customary in the Thai culture. Some English was spoken, although harsh and broken, which created many communication challenges. It was interesting learning how to effectively communicate and realizing that the language of love, anger and other emotions are universal. I could tell when my homestay mother was being affectionate towards me when she touched my hair and smiled; I could also tell she was upset when I forgot to take my shoes off in the house.
The place I will be comparing Kalasin to is the beautiful beach island of Ko Samet. We stepped off a speedboat into the warm blue/green water and saw resorts for as far as the eye could see. People walked with a relaxed step, lounged on the beach in barely any clothing and splashed around in the sea; the resort although simple had a clean and expensive appeal. A sandy road lead to a paved one that lead to what appeared to be main street, which had two seven-elevens (the groups favorite pit stop). Many shops lined the streets selling over priced souvenirs. Many other streets traveled along the coast and were heavily marked by hoping clubs. The native Thai people living on this island that we interacted with were heavily influenced by the tourism they are surrounded by. Many of them spoke decent English and appeared well manicured. Many of the Thai people vacationing here didn’t look callused or had dark complexions, which in the Thai culture could be symbolic of wealth.
What I am trying to get across with my two previous paragraphs is the stark differences between living in a rural village and a tourist beach area. Never to say the western influences are bad, but that they create noticeable and life altering differences.
Thailand. It is a place where you never know what to expect. I was lucky enough to experience this country in all the ways that it could possibly offer. With the first village, in Kalasin I could see a place, which was hard at work to get what they had, a place that didn’t receive things easily, they worked for their living. In past years, this village has had interactions with Westerners and I could only imagine what their lives had been like before ever interacting with people from the US. The villagers had simple occupations such as farmers, weavers, and fishermen. They lived a life of simplicity and were non-materialistic; they would only by what was absolutely necessary for them. Many of them didn’t even have the luxury of having a owning any means of transportation. They didn’t have the best means of health care when it came to caring for the wellbeing of some of the locals there. Another thing that really made this experience unique were the difficulties that came with trying to communicate with the people of Kalasin. Their Engilsh was broken and we had to go down to their level to speak with them in order for them to understand. Simple things live emotions of anger or happiness were an easy way to communicate because you could easily express it back.
Now, the village in Kalasin to the island Koh Samet is absolutely mind altering. I went from a place of simplicity to a place greatly influenced by western culture. On Koh Samet, the locals are exposed to other cultures and tourist attitude every day. They are so adapted that their English is so developed and able communicate at a much more sophisticated level; which is a lot to say in comparison to Phu Por. There are tourists everywhere, with such a large amount of western influence. The natives on Koh Samet seemed much more materialistic. I believe that is due to the fact that they were interacting with tourists every day they had to try and be as seen as figures of wealth and seen knowledge able. If you were to ask any local had come from, a majority would say that they come from a little village back on the main land. Which just shows that with this world change they have learned to be more like they people they were making their living off of.
In the end, the differences between the villages and that of the island, one that stands would out like a sore thumb. The western influence has taken its toll on people, who were once living in a village to living in a place where they are forced to interact every day. I don’t think having to adapt is necessary a bad thing, I just find it interesting how much of a difference in makes in the local citizens of Thailand who were born and raised in a village to that of people who have branched out of their village in seek of a new and better life.
Thailand Reflection Blog Post
While travelling through Thailand I kept remembering a discussion I had prior to the trip with Professor Peter Ingle. I don’t remember specifics, at least not enough to quote, but I do remember a discussion that surrounded what it meant to be a global citizen and what role service had historically played in developing countries. For many, service is a self-serving act and in the long term, turns out, is not sustainable. Without educating we are only doing, which in developing countries, we become very expensive and unskilled labor.
Meanwhile I had already started reading a book called Poor Economic which takes a comprehensive approach in understanding the logic and reasoning that poor families in poor and developing countries use. It was not until I had arrived in Thailand and our group had arrived in our first village where I began to connect all these pieces of the puzzle. The discussion with Ingle, the readings from Poor Economics, and the experiences on the ground in Kalasin all came together where I started to have a point of clarity of why I was there.
There are many reasons for people to do service work and many other reasons for why people travel. For me it was not about just one or the other. It became a synthesis of both service and travel. The travel experience of northern Thailand gave me a better understanding of who the people were, why the do what they do and how much alike we both are. Yes, some cultural differences but they make decisions based on a lot of the same reasons American do, it is just on a more basic level because they are in a developing country instead of a privileged developed country.
The service part of the trip came a little later when we made our first visit to a school south of Chiang Mai called Ban Mai. The service was not about service at all. We did not go to Thailand to physically give back to community in the form of labor but rather to help build community involvement and trust. It was a way to bond with the local school by offering our labor and time to help experience more of who they are and to prove that we can listen and learn how they would do it. I will also admit it was very hard to initially set aside my western ways and become more Thai thinking. Think of it as a go with the flow mentality. Of course this is a give and take of information with both sides giving and taking but it becomes a dance in which we hope that by our presence that we are able to help this small school and village somehow in the long term and through it all they will be better off than if we had not come at all.
This synthesis style of approach is a large key to why this program has become so successful. It is a creative approach to development and it may seem slow, but that is because it is. Good things take time to build and over time it is more sustainable and ensures that the community will be able to sustainably manage the improvements.
It is my hope that in the future I am able to continue to help this village/school/community is some way in the future. It was more than a learning experience. I fell in love with the people and the culture and it is something that I hope to return to again, someway, somehow.
Community Assessment for the Ban Mai School in Ban Mae Tuen
We left Chiang Mai, Thailand on the 10th day of our trip to strike out on a new journey to find the Ban Mai School located in the small village of Ban Mae Tuen, south of Chiang Mai. Professors Ingle and Kim had not visited the school yet so we did not have much information for what the school needs really were. Having had stories about the disrepair and rundown condition the last village was in when our professors first visited it 5 years ago this May. I had envisioned Ban Mai to be in similar condition. However, I was very surprised upon our arrival to see large, painted and colorful buildings, signage and a small town with shops, a restaurant and other businesses. The school, which is home to more than 300 students from kindergarten through 6th grade during the Thai school year, was in better condition than I initially had expected but still largely lacking in regular maintenance.
Throughout our three day stay at the Ban Mai School we performed health assessments for each student which included height and weight checks as well as oral, lice and lesion checks with corresponding care given to help treat it. We also worked to repair a concrete step that was in disrepair by removing the old concrete and framing, mixing and pouring new concrete. The new step was a project that will provide a more safe entrance into the cafeteria/eating hall. Lastly, for our service work at Ban Mai we also spend a class period with the children in their classrooms teaching them games that would help work on their English skills and would also encourage class participation. In my group we taught the kids a song that was reinforced with actions so the kids could sing in English as well as act out the words they were singing.
While working on these service projects we were reminded to keep an open mind about various school needs that we come across and to critically think about creative solutions to those needs. I particularly found myself identifying many needs that could benefit the school and more importantly the school children but it became even harder to sift through the ideas and simplify it down to a few good ideas that were not only sustainable but impactful for years to come. I did not want to focus on small items that the community could do themselves but rather help on the larger issues that they might not have the capacity to do on their own. The criteria that I used to help me prioritize the list of needs I created was
- Is it sustainable for years to come?, Does it help free up time to focus on other projects?
- Does it help the largest amount of people?
- Is it affordable and can we execute it within the next 3-5 years or less?
Using this criteria of prioritization I was able to narrow down the scope of potential projects that we, as a May term trip, could execute within the timeframe of 3 to 5 years. It also helps to keep our focus on the larger goals that can help the school in areas that may not have otherwise had the capacity to do. One approach to helping a community such as this one is to help with large projects that will in turn free up resources such as labor. This transition from daily needs to more long term project planning will help with community development and can rollover the additional resources into future projects. This type of bootstrapping is a social entrepreneurship solution to small scale community development. If our May Term Thailand group can help with some of the larger projects to help free up their time from all the daily worries then the Ban Mai School can begin to shift focus to more mid and long term planning.
Here is a non-prioritized list of ideas that we brainstormed in a debriefing meeting after we left the Ban Mai School. These are student’s preliminary high level ideas and are not confirmed projects yet.
- Address clean water storage and collection for year round use
-Rain water collection system
- Hygiene and dental care- not just brushing teeth but also keeping cuts clean and taking care of sores
-Annual care packages for incoming students
- Improving the dorms- better bedding, more beds, better conditions for all (esp the Hmong), and more clothes, shoes
-Clothes washing system for all students to use
- Mechai’s Pattana School model for gardening
-Teaches planning and teamwork
-Incorporate social entrepreneurship through the program
- More/better materials for the classrooms- more English texts, more variety than just the workbooks, some basic technology stuff
-After school programs with non-classroom learning focus
-Career exploration, job shadowing, skills training programs, etc
- Community involvement for future projects
-After school programs/classes where kids get to learn in a more creative way
-Addressing other building maintenance items beyond the cafeteria- lights, roofs, etc.
The next step for this process I think would be to thoroughly vet out the ideas with supporting cost benefit analysis and structure a timeline for implementation of each item. A supporting document such as a strategic plan would be beneficial as a deliverable to the Ban Mai School included with a letter of intent. In the future many of these projects are dependent on the level of student engagement and support for the fundraising that makes the May Term Thailand Service Learning class such a success. As fundraiser dinner coordinator I worked very hard to make this year’s fundraising activities a success, especially with the fundraiser dinner but, not without the help of great students. However, each year a new group of students are in charge of assuming this fundraising role and cannot be expected that every year will be as successful. In order to keep this class a success and to continue the work we are planning we need to be sure there are successful fundraising for the years to come. I see this as one of the largest weaknesses of the program.
I hope to somehow stay engaged in more work like what we have begun in Ban Mae Tuen, Ban Mai School. I see a lot of future need with social entrepreneurship and business education within the community to help maximize the community’s potential and resources. I think through community education and town hall meetings businesses can really thrive once informed and empowered. And with social entrepreneurship properly implemented beneficiaries such the community can really thrive from better education of the Ban Mai School education the next generation of business savvy social entrepreneurs.
One of the most important things I learned being a nursing student on this trip revolved around resourcefulness and flexibility in nursing. Here in the U.S. we have access to endless supplies, state of the art equipment and a plethora of doctors to choose from. Prior to the village assessments, I found myself focusing on the supplies we didn’t have rather than what we did have and what we could accomplish.
So much of what we learn in nursing school feels rigid to me when, in actuality nursing is also an art. Yes, there is a foundation which is important to have studied and will serve as the basis for knowledge, but this experience impacted my approach. It prompted me to think more broadly about realistic intent when providing healthcare in varying parts of the world. The approach in the village was rudimentary compared to what we might do here in the States, but the impact was still great. It served in gaining knowledge and information about the priority health concerns among the children and we did it with less.
This experience gave me insight on how to assist populations globally and will serve as a lifelong reminder to be resourceful, flexible and think outside the box. Yay!
By Erin Ward
My trip to Thailand served as a wonderful enhancement on my nursing education. Not only was I able to complete hands on assessments, but I was also exposed to many different health problems that I have not encountered in the states. My experience thus far with nursing has always been in a controlled setting. I am either in the classroom for lecture, or shadowing a nurse in the hospital. Being placed in a rural environment with limited access to medical supplies, textbooks, and a language barrier on top of that truly made me draw on a nursing “touch” that I didn’t know I possessed. I have heard that when trying to learn a new language, one day it will click and you will actually start thinking in that new language instead of continuously translating in your head. For me, nursing school has been like trying to learn a new language. While I am at the hospital or in lecture, I am constantly trying to sift through the mass amounts of material in my head, trying to translate my book knowledge into my work as a nurse on the floor. This trip made something click for me with nursing. It was the first time that I have been placed in full control of a clinical situation; it made me learn to think like a nurse, observe like a nurse, and interact like a nurse.
This trip also exposed me to health care on a global scale, which is knowledge that I had lacked prior to the trip. I was able to compare health care in the states to health care abroad and see where we had exceeded and where we were lacking. I am not convinced that Western medicine, for all of its technology, is superior to health care systems in other countries. It was interesting to see their different priorities and methods; this exposure will hopefully allow me to incorporate a more holistic approach in my future career as a nurse. It also opened up to me the possibility of incorporating global health nursing into my future career, which is a path I had never considered. I loved my experience with global health on this trip and I know that it will continue to impact where and how I work from here on out. I think that I will remember this trip for years to come as the pivotal point in which I gained confidence in my abilities as a future nurse, and excited about the career that I have chosen for myself.