Dariia, Kanom and Alisa are Grade 12 students from UWC Thailand International School (UWCT). They, and a team of other Grade 12 UWCT students, just completed their “Project Week” program with St Euphrasia BanYa Literacy Centre (SEBLC). During the week, the students worked with UWCT art teacher and artist Kru Cece, where they painted a huge mural at Ba Ya, decorated two kindergarten classrooms and hosted BanYa students on the UWCT campus where students were able to utilise the various school facilities.
Heidi Oxley-Whitnell, their Service Learning Coordinator, said about their work, “During the week, the Grade 12 students planned, implemented and reflected on a service-learning project that involved collaboration with an external organisation. We encourage students to step out of their comfort zone, where they will find that they mature in unexpected ways. Students will learn something new every day, through a process of reflection and evaluation. When problems arise during Project Week, which does happen, students learn vital skills of cooperation, leadership and patience.”
This program takes place every year, however, due to the impact of COVID-19, this year students have focused on partnering with local Phuket organisations, such as Bodhi Dogs, Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, Gibbons Rehabilitation Centre and Phuket Has Been Good To Us (PHBGTU) in order to carry out their Project Week activities.
Since the relationship between UWCT and SEBLC is well established as part of the school’s service-learning pillar, Dariia, Kanom and Alisa had the idea to decorate the classroom walls. To support the Grade 12’s work, teacher Cece volunteered to create a huge external mural. Plans were reviewed and this idea was turned into a reality. In the long term, when the rainy season ends, the team wants to continue to decorate the walls.
Through the mural, the three students want to advocate for female, human and educational rights. Kanom thinks that, along with access to school for basic education, it is critical for all students to have access to art education. “It’s an education in beauty. The paintings on the wall may just appear colourful figures, numbers or simple phrases, but I wish that the colour would give people hope, cheer them up and encourage them to do something to follow their dreams.”
The mural took two days to complete. During the remaining three days of their Project Week, Dariia, Kanom and Alisa hosted 30 BanYa students to experience the UWCT facilities. The BanYa students experienced chemistry experiments, explored how to make electricity and were faced with mathematics and logic challenges. There was also opportunity to take part in art, dance and cooking classes, all facilitated by UWCT students and supervising staff.
Dariia hoped that this experience would enlighten passion, interest and potential career paths for the BanYa students. For UWCT students, Alisa said that this was one of many extraordinary projects, an exercise combining activity, creativity and service. It was also a very good chance to practice leadership. When asked how they evaluate this project, all three said they knew they had succeeded when they saw the ecstatic smiles on BanYa students’ faces. At the end of the three days, all BanYa students talked with excitement about their experience on the UWCT campus.
As Louisa May Alcott said long ago, “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Every obstacle and challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop new skills. Life is full of storms. And it is our response to each storm that determines where we eventually end up. Dariia, Kanom and Alisa, as typical Gen Z members, have demonstrated this truth.