While most after-school extracurricular activities focus on sports, fine arts, or other academic related fields such as Model United Nations or Homework Club, Unity Concord International School (UCIS) is making a difference with a newly formed club called Interact Club.
Interact Club is a school organization which offers students the opportunity to get involved with community work around Northern Thailand. “We currently have two local charities that we partner with and regularly donate time to,” said Shelagh Li – ESL teacher at UCIS and Teaching Supervisor of Interact Club. “The first is Connie’s Home, a foster home that takes in Thai babies who are often too sickly or weak to be placed in government institutions, and takes care of them until they are adopted by international families all over the world, and the second is Baan Pak Dek Phraporn.”
Just recently, Interact Club, along with several school staff members, spent their weekend with the Lahu children of Baan Pak Dek Phraporn, an underfunded orphanage located in Chiang Rai.
“Interact did some fundraisers at our school to get the word out about the orphanage and some of the things they needed. The students were able to come up with several fundraising ideas and we ran those ideas with them,” shared Aidan Londregan – who is a History teacher at UCIS and is heavily involved with Interact Club. One particular fundraising event proved to be a major success: the schoolwide Pajama Dress Up day. Despite the school’s mandatory uniform policy, UCIS devoted one day in which students could wear their pajamas to school. The catch? Each student had to pay 100 baht if they wanted to wear their pajamas from last night’s sleep to school.
“We were able to raise a total of 32,000 baht, which will be going towards the construction of the orphanage’s new dormitory building. 54 kids are currently living in two shacks made of tin, which leak and rust during the rainy season and pose multiple health threats for the children. We were also able to bring 2-3 truck fulls of donations – including clothes, shoes, toys, and basic necessities like rice and noodles,” said Shelagh. “We ran a day camp on Saturday for the kids at the orphanage, and spent the whole weekend just loving on the kids and bonding with them.”
There are currently 20 students who are a part of Interact, and the numbers are likely to increase as their selfless work has received nothing but positive appraisals and support from the school community. “I think Interact will bring the community closer and make us stronger. It has definitely opened up many students’ perspectives on their own lives, and has made them very grateful for what they have,” said Aidan.
With school curriculums striving to become more and more competitive, the emphasis on encouraging or instilling core values to students in order to build character has been increasingly neglected. While school is a place where kids should attain quality education and develop the skills they need to get into a good college, it should also be a place where students learn to grow and become good members of society.
“I hope that the experiences of our Interact Club will be a catalyst in inspiring other schools to start similar programmes for their students,” added Shelagh. “We are so privileged to live in and work or attend school at an international school in Chiang Mai- to have a safe environment to live, to have a comfortable bed to sleep in, and people who will go above and beyond for us; let’s all take the time and effort to pass this on to others in the community.”
Interact Club is looking to expand its efforts in the near future and are looking at different projects around Northern Thailand. “Since we have literally just started out, all of our donations have been from inside the UCIS school community thus far. However, we are looking to start some bigger fundraising projects in the near future that will be an awesome opportunity for the greater community to become involved in!” shared Shelagh, who is excited to continue assisting students to do things in good will. In the meantime, the Interact Club has shown that even a small gesture, or in this case, a small school club, can go a long way in helping and impacting the community.
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