Annually we welcome around 3,000 students and staff from over fifty schools worldwide.
This November VSP welcomed back the return of UWCSEA East from Singapore to host their Discovery Week, which involved five days of exploration to further their understanding of certain issues through using the Compass of Sustainability.
Our overnight trip took us to School For Life (SFL), situated in the beautiful mountain village of Huay Hong Krai in Doi Saket. SFL offers more than just an academic education for the children, and provides them with a safe place where they live in a handful of “family homes”, with 20-30 children living under one roof as an extended family, sharing and learning skills with each other. These children come from homes where their immediate families are no longer able to look after them for various reasons and have very different backgrounds and life experiences to our Singapore students. Prior to the visit UWCSEA had spent a while in VSP’s brand new Hill Tribe Room, where we have an array of old and new photographs depicting hill tribe life, some clothing and other handmade objects as well as plenty of background information on the different hill tribes in Thailand. This will help better prepare our students before we send them off to a village and give them a better understanding of what life is like there.
Once at SFL, the main focus of the day was on interaction between the children, trying to find out about each other’s lives, and what living at a hill tribe school is really like. We played games like ‘Hwaaar’ and ‘Monkey Football’, which the SFL kids managed to win even whilst playing in their somewhat difficult-to-move-in hill tribe dresses! The language barrier and cultural differences did not inhibit the children playing with each other in the slightest. The SFL kids were keen to show the UWCSEA kids some of their skills and helped them make herbal compress massage balls, pounding up the fresh local herbs and teaching the kids the names in Thai. The UWCSEA students were keen to learn new Thai words and help the SFL students learn English. The kids at SFL are used to playing sports and active games every day, so even the younger ones excel at most sports. They played volleyball, football, basketball and takraw (a Southeast Asian sport similar to volleyball but played using the feet). For those who wanted to rest in the shade, the volunteers from SFL and some of the younger students facilitated jewelry making and had circus equipment to practice with.
The day ended with a campfire, where we cooked “khao lam” (sweet sticky rice in bamboo) on the open fire, reflected on the day, and sang songs both in Thai and English.
One of my favourite things to watch through the day was how the UWCSEA and SFL kids had managed to communicate and make friends so well without having a common, verbal language. Any initial inhibitions and nerves were soon forgotten about as we all played games, learned new skills and enjoyed great food together. When it came to leaving the next morning, we had an extended goodbye with lots of hugs, and one SFL girl giving her new friend a handmade card. Some of the students from UWCSEA said that they would have liked to stay longer, and loved that despite not having many modern luxuries, the SFL community was such a peaceful and happy place.
VSP are incredibly grateful to the SFL staff and students for making our first ever visit there such an amazing success and we look forward to a long future working together!