Disconnect to Connect

Back from a week in Northern Thailand where I took twenty-one 10th and 11th grade students on a week long journey into manual labor, teaching, and self-reflection. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and the first order of business after arriving at the lodge was to disconnect. As promised I made the students turn in all electrical devices. Cellphones, iPods, etc. The only thing they were allowed to keep was a camera. Nothing with earbuds, nothing that could distract them from each other. I made the theme for the week Disconnect to Connect and then challenged the students with the following:  By the end of this week have one meaningful conversation with every other person here…..including me.  It wasn’t a big task…after all we were going to be spending every waking moment together over the next 5 days. Four of the days consisted of the same schedule. Half of the students would teach English to the students in K-5 while the other half built a new cafeteria for the kids and school. Wednesday would be a team building activity that included building your own raft and rafting down the Maekok River and hiking to a hill tribe village. I had an opportunity to talk with the principal of the school (via a translater) about living in Northern Thailand. Basically there are hill tribes in Northern Thailand some of them Thai others refugees from around the region. Cambodia, Burma, Tibet, and other parts of Asia as well. The Thai government allows these tribes (villages) to operate in Thailand but does not officially recognize them as Thai citizens. Unlike in the U.S. or other countries where if you are born in that country you are a citizen of that country, Thailand does not follow this same rule and therefore some of these tribes are generations old and yet not Thai nationals.  Because they are not Thai nationals they do not receive any funding for things like education. For example, the school we were working at (Mae Sa Lak School) there were 160 students K-5, however only 50 of the students were actual Thai nationals, meaning the school only got funding for 50 students to teach and educate 160. To put this in perspective…the Thai government gives the school 10 Baht (32 cents USD) per child for lunch. So instead of having 500 Baht ($16.25) to feed 50 kids. They get 500 Baht...

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