15 students led by Resident Fellow Dr. Caixia CHU went to Huay Khom village in Northern Thailand from Dec. 18 to 28 2017 to help build a small dam which will provide villagers with water for shower and irrigation, and teach Chinese and football in a local primary school as well as in the village. In the meantime, students actively engaged in the Village Christmas Party and sports day, experienced the local traditional festival, and gained unique memories.
Villagers received students with great hospitality. Homestay hosts prepared comfortable rooms for students, and cooked delicious local food every day. Due to the unexpected cold weather this year, some students caught a cold. The hosts showed great care and provided more than enough blankets for students at night. No matter how hard it was to build the dam, students felt great warmth after going back to homestay.
One of the main task for the team was to build a dam in the jungle, which, in rain seasons, will retain water for local villagers to take shower and irrigate their farms. Every morning, students woke up while listening the crow, and then went to the construction site by truck, through a bumpy road, along which students were excited about the green hills and water, the beautiful natural scenery in Thailand.
Because of the rough mountain road, the team could only use very ‘primitive’ ways, such as shoveling sands and stones into bags and transport construction materials through manpower. Without advanced tools, they used shovels to mix the cement constantly. After the concrete was made, students stood in line to pass down buckets filled with concrete, one by one, to the dam site. It turned out to be a success. When the dam was completed, students wrote down their names on the top of the dam, with smile and satisfaction. On one hand, the dam brought convenience to the villagers, and on the other hand, students got a good exercise, experiencing the hardship of physical work and learning what they can achieve with their bare little hands.
The other main task for the team was voluntary teaching. Students taught student from grade 1 to grade 4 Chinese in a local primary school in the afternoon. At night, students taught adults and children in the village. An exchange student from Japan who was a qualified football coach taught student football games. The other student from FST designed science classes for students to cultivate their interests in exploring natural laws such as gravity. All the classes were welcomed by the students.
During Christmas Eve, students joined local caroling held by villagers, sang from house to house, and prayed for safety together. On the next day, they joined the local Christmas Party in village during which they listened to beautiful local music, watched unique knife-dance, and performed their own dance, which won a big applause from the audience. UM students spent an unforgettable Christmas with the villagers.
Students learned a lot from the trip, they learned that with teamwork, they can achieve more than they have imagined and with the help of body language, they can communicate with local villagers and teach in the school. Student Li said “I was always the one been taken care of but here have to take care of the children. I learnt to be independent.
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Text: Biomedical Science Year 2 Huang Zhongyu