My experience from the Australian Thai Youth Ambassador Program (ATYAP) 2015 has been not only rewarding but of deep meaning. The Program is structured to have the first 3 weeks as teaching weeks with excursions organised on some weekends in Ubon Ratchathani and the last week to be of cultural exploration in Bangkok.
The school I took part in teaching involved only 60 students from kindergarten to Year 6, mostly from families struggling financially. It is the smallest school to receive assistance from the program. My teaching partner and I devised a schedule on topics to teach the students whilst trying to incorporate 4 fundamental areas into the program. They are English Language Skills, Australian Culture, Thailand and the World and Good Citizenship. In addition to that, we also felt it was important to introduce creativity, games and phonetics/phonics into the curriculum where possible. On special occasions such as on Australia Day, we introduced the children to the nation’s history, culture, wildlife, food and music such as dancing to “Give Me A Home Among the Gumtrees”. We also made a billboard showing the works of the students dedicated for Australia Day. I personally spent extra time to play with the children, especially with sports like soccer and welcomed the girls to participate as a means to help them engage in physical sport but also to bring together students of both genders and teach them leadership, team work and confidence. This effort eventually paid off as one of the girls managed to strike a goal with the help of the entire team in the last game I played with them.
We also managed to visit sick children at the local public hospital and an orphanage during breaktime from teaching and organised old clothes, books and toys to be distributed to these children. I was also personally tasked with a box of knitted dolls made by retired grannies living in rural NSW to distribute them to those who would need them the most. The team also hand-made a card to give to the hospital with folded hearts. On the last days teaching, we also managed to buy 600 pairs of socks, 32 dictionaries, 5 soccer balls, 100 story books and 2 dozen shuttlecocks for the poorest schools.
Some organised excursions were sponsored by the Thai Tourism Authority and/or the Consul General in Sydney. They include a therapeutic visit to an international forest monastery and ancient cave paintings located near the border of Cambodia. The forest monastery also offered guidance in meditation and healthy living and was a very rare and helpful opportunity for us collectively.
In Bangkok, some group members like myself were struggling emotionally with parting the children we taught, but the authorities had already packed a number of activities such as Thai Dancing classes, visit to the Grand Palace, the Floating Markets etc. to help us cope and we also stayed in contact with some of the children and teachers.
All in all, I am deeply touched by the warmth of the Thai people. In fact, the sense of unity among the children and teachers are indeed precious.