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Donate for Children's Day

 Childrens day donate
13 Jan 2018
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20% discount for returning volunteers

crogan-2Lao Lee Primary School opened up their school to us, the volunteers of Mirror, and in return we taught English to their 180 students over the course of three days. This being the first visit, no one knew what to expect – so we tried to be prepared and go with open minds (note: towels and sleeping bags are essential!).

Nervous and excited for the adventure, we awaited our ride early Wednesday from Mirror and just to build the anticipation and ensure we knew it was a long journey it ran on Thai time. Eventually we were off around and round the mountain, stopping along the way to make collections and deliveries and trying to avoid motion sickness (a teacher was good enough to swap out with those in the back since it wasn’t such a problem travelling in the front). Each time we stopped, we thought that surely no more would fit in the bus, but we did in fact quite literally get the kitchen sink in.

The small village has one vehicle that goes to town daily to collect supplies for the population and on the first day this was us! On arrival we were welcomed by students rushing to open the gate for us and carry our bags in (despite the weight and the size of them!). We all learnt soon enough that it was customary for the students to look after their seniors, with cleaning, carrying and fetching. The cultural difference in the way the schools are run is great, and certainly a privilege to witness first hand – something without this program we would never get a chance to see.

In pairs and with topics prepared, we taught English to various grades right away and if we didn’t know what we were doing we had to learn fast. And that we did. Thankfully the kids were really eager to learn and loved having us there to teach them, so we all had a lot of fun and were exhausted at the end of it.

Although we were not staying at a resort after all (there was one across the valley but I think this may have been lost in translation) the accommodation was lovely and clean and we were all so grateful for the hot shower at the end of the day. Oh how the simple things in life quickly become a luxury and we learn to appreciate the things that we otherwise take for granted when actually – for some it is normal to live without.

Assembly was called at the end of the day with marching band and introductions of the volunteers with us all getting up on stage. The nerves were there, but Juimmaume broke the ice by introducing himself with a Thai hello - Sa wat deeka. Laughter and applause erupted and all were happy at the effort.

The evenings were relaxing and the teachers all made us feel welcome and prepared wonderful meals and sticky rice (‘kow neau’) from bamboo over the fire. The staff room was free for us to use and plan our lessons and all were pleased to find wifi to keep in touch with others from what seemed like another world – in fact we were far North near the Burmese border where the Chinese population is great and shops and the resort have Chinese writing and decorations all around. The aroma while walking around is delicious and we learnt it must be from the tea plantations in the valley – if you love tea, you will appreciate the shop at the resort that sells a variety of herbal and Chinese teas.

At Lao Lee the day begins at 7 when the music starts on the loud speakers, and at 730 all the kids assemble in the courtyard for the national anthem for the King and announcements for the day (the afternoon session is for the Queen). All the students wait patiently through this event, even at the end of the day when at 4:30 the chime rings to announce the beginning and the band play as the students leave the gate in single file, one class at a time. It really is something to see – and this happens every day. This is just the start of what seems amazing to those of us who didn’t grow up in this culture. The school children all clean and tidy and maintain the garden, among other odd jobs, for at least half an hour at the beginning of the day and an hour at the end of the day. Then these children, who seem to run on the energiser bunny’s batteries, go on to learn Chinese at the school down the road for 3 hours in the evening. This makes for a 13 hour day.

With two classes to teach we all got straight into it on our second day there, but we soon learnt that we were so popular that the remaining grades and child care wanted in on the visitors teaching English – so it was off to a third class during our break time. All in a day’s work and we were pleased to be able to contribute more.

We went off to the local markets in the afternoon in a nearby village while the teachers bought the fresh produce for that night’s dinner which was well underway when we got back. The teachers working together to create delicious fresh food with variety as well – we were really spoilt and well looked after.

The last day really was a finale event with all 180 students in the courtyard for outside games at four stations. Each pair of volunteers saw each and every student, with hot potato, leader ball, whisper chain and more. Starting out with our jackets in the cool misty morning, we were soon overheating in the Thai sun and glad for the teachers hats and cold water. At times competition was fierce and the anticipation high, giggles and cheers could be heard from every group and the leadership displayed was impressive. The older children always stop and help the younger ones and give them a go.

To top off this amazing experience, the whole school gathered in a special assembly to say thank to all the volunteers and we I turn got to say thank you for having us. We all got a lovely memento with a photo of us teaching and a beautiful saying. Our grand exit was preceded high high 5’s down the line as if we were superstars or sports persons the fans all wanted to touch.

At first we were a little apprehensive about the final leg of our journey on board the truck/dual cab ute (depending on where you come from!) since we had ten people and our luggage to cart back. The conversation including comments like, “Surely we can’t all fit in there”, and “P’Katoon must be joking – she is, isn’t she?” With a big grin on her face we were certain until we met the principle and his truck due to take us home. We got used to the idea and we indeed all fit – pretty comfy I might add with the mat they put down for us – and was good fun and such a novelty since this is no longer permitted at home. Riding in the back of the ute, with the wind against our faces and fresh air -living the dream. J

We were exhausted at the end of it, and we didn’t have anything like their schedule. From 730 assembly and clean up through to 430 pm when most then go on to the Chinese school at 5pm til 8pm the students are busy with schooling activities. Then there are those that love to hang out at the school colouring, playing sport and helping out after school. It is a very different school life to be a part of and such a great experience we are fortunate to have.

The volunteers worked hard in all the classes and absolutely loved visiting this school: the staff were friendly and keen to help; the students looked after us and were eager to learn; the living arrangements were lovely (especially the hot showers!); the scenery is stunning and the food delicious.

Highlight:

Assembly with the marching band each day

Items to bring:

  • Towel
  • Toilet Paper
  • Insect repellent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Toiletries
  • Book/Tablet
  • Jacket/Jumper for the morning
  • Money in case of markets and if you want some tea

Good to know:

There is a hot shower, so make use of this and wash your hair!

Must do:

Walk to the top of the road that the Resort is on – amazing view.

Be aware of:

Motion sickness – there are a lot of bends

Teaching Tip:

The students are great at repeating after you. Ask them to repeat it all together, as a team and individually.

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