For many years, several teams from the Institute of Technical Education, Singapore, have been coming to the Galayani Vadhana District, Chiang Mai Province.
They are student teams here for Youth Expedition Projects (YEP), supported by the Singapore government. The YEP is a service-learning programme with the aim of nurturing confident and resilient youths through serving local and overseas communities.
This year, the team has ventured to pioneer a work at Bongmai village on Doi Wawee in Mae Suay District, Chiangrai Province. The key objectives of this trip was to build a community centre, provide hands-on learning experience for students, conduct enrichment exchange programmes at the village children’s hostel, student cultural immersion and fostering of teamwork among the team members.
This year’s team faced many challenges. From the warm urban metropolis of Singapore, students had to adapt to the mountainous cold of the rural countryside. The simple task of bathing became a battle against the cold freezing water, as many were used to showering with piped hot water back home. It was truly back to the basics for many, some of whom succumbed to the weather and fell ill. They also had to eat fast to work right after meals. One student even contracted acute appendicitis on the fourth day and had to be hospitalised after undergoing immediate surgery. Such were the risks the teams have to take each time they travel overseas.
The communication barrier was also a challenge, as they tried to talk with the locals. It was helpful that some of the locals have a smattering command of the Mandarin and Malay languages. Getting restful sleep was also a challenge as contrary to belief that roosters only crow at the break of dawn – here, they seemed to crow hourly!
Despite all the challenges, the team worked together and accomplished what they had set out to do. They built a community centre, taught English to the children in the hostel, played with them, exchanged recipes with the locals, forged friendships and gained a newfound appreciation for another country and culture. What a learning experience!