In August, we welcomed the first Challenges Abroad group to our partner village, Mae La. The group of six were in the village for a week to renovate an old classroom to be used as a Library/Computer room, painting the school’s canteen as well as teaching English, Art and Sport every afternoon. In the library they decided to paint two murals; Finding Nemo on one wall and a jungle scene on the other. It seemed like a lot of work and I thought we might not have time to finish it all in the week they were here.
After clearing out the room and washing down the walls on the first morning, all six of the volunteers started painting the canteen. The canteen hosts all forty-seven students daily for lunch and also is the location for any school ceremonies. It was only half painted and was mostly grey and didn’t match the colours of the rest of the school. By the end of the first morning of renovation it had almost been finished already; a whole coat of light blue paint inside and bright striped colours on the brick fence that runs around the outside.
Renovation stopped every afternoon while the volunteers taught English, Art and Sport. This was by far one of the happiest times I’ve seen the kids.
They usually don’t have a chance to do any art or sport, so seeing the look on their faces when they got the opportunity to run around and play games with the volunteers was really amazing. After class, each night, the volunteers were supposed to have free time, but instead decided to work on the library murals, only taking breaks to do some extra activities such as village tours, meeting the village mayor or visiting a traditional villager’s house.
The canteen was finished on the second day, leaving the rest of the week to focus on the murals in the library. The jungle scene mural started with trees on either side and then in the middle there was elephants, monkeys, birds, spiders and a tiger. The murals were massive and looked like too much work to get finished but the girls worked on them every night and tried to incorporate the children and villagers as much as possible. The trees on either side have leaves connecting them along the top of the mural so the volunteers decided to use green hand-prints for the leaves so that we could involve the kids as much as possible. We each placed one hand-print and then started calling in nearby kids to let them do one too. By the end of the day we had one hand-print from all forty-seven kids in the school as well as every teacher, our chef, the janitor, and a few of the villagers.
We finished the week by having an assembly held for the volunteers on Friday after school, where every student said thank you and shook the hand of every volunteer. Then we went on a small hike on Saturday to a nearby river with some students as guides, and finally went to the local church (Mae La is mostly Catholic) on Sunday morning to meet the entire village. The villagers were told what we had been doing, where everyone came from and what their names were. Together they all said a blessing, wishing safe travels upon the volunteers and then after the service they came up to meet them all, say thank you and again shake everybody’s hand.
The Thailand team could not have been happier with how the first group in Mae La went; the painting that the volunteers did looks amazing and the students have never been so happy. Massive thank you goes out to Kirsten, Connie, Katie, Lauren, Pippa and Sarina for everything they have done for this village.