Belgian students reach out to Lahu children

It was perfect summer weather, around eighteen degrees… back in Brussels, Belgium.  The students from International School of Belgium (ISB) were still in their hoodies and jackets when they arrived at the Chiang Mai International Airport on one of the hottest days of year, with a temperature of 40°C.  They were not prepared for this kind of ‘warm’ welcome.
 
ISB returned for the second year to our Visiting Schools Program. For many of them, this was their first time in an Asian country, so all forty-one students and their five teachers needed to rest and adapt to their new environment on their first day. They all were excited to learn and very curious about this ‘New City’.
 
One of their major activities was community service.  Their project was located at a remote school in the Lahu hill tribe village near the border of Thailand and Myanmar. The school is called “Ban Nong Wua Daeng Learning Centre” and is a small kindergarten with twenty-five students ranging from two to five years of age, with only one teacher. The centre was in need of a canteen and toilet area. This was the perfect ideal place for six days of community service. The Brussels students were divided into two groups, switching after three days and taking turns working on the new canteen building. They raised the ground floor, built all four walls, and did lots cement mixing by hand. In the beginning, the students did not know how to mix or build anything, and had no experience with the tools. 
 
The gods above didn’t show them any mercy either: rewarding them with extreme tropical heat the first day and the second day giving them monsoon thunder, lighting and heavy rain storms. However, these conditions only challenged the students to work even harder. They all welcomed the hard manual labour and endured the unforgiving weather. Even the local children joined in, helping as much as their little bodies could. Language wasn’t a barrier for the students from Belgium or for the local kids. They quickly understood what the tasks were, and cooperated and communicated with each other well regardless of size, age, or their origin.

“What I liked best was the community service. Although this was hard work, it was a completely new experience from which I learnt a lot” – Charlotte M

“I enjoyed the community service the most because it was challenging and required concentration but it definitely was worth seeing the kids happy with their new building” – Simaima P

The Brussels students were introduced to other great activities during their stay in Chiang Mai. They learned about Thai language and culture – which they found useful during their shopping night at the Night Bazaar. They visited the Wat Doi Suthep and later chatted with monks about life and religion. The students found talking with the monks very intriguing and they all left the temple visit with a better understanding of Thai Buddhism.
 
Other highlights of their trip included their adventure days, with mountain bike riding through the local village and rice paddy at the Sri Lanna National Park and kayaking to and from the floating boat house there and back.

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