Meriden girls make an amazing journey to Thailand

10 February 2014

While other students were heading to the beach for the summer holidays, a group of fifteen girls from Meriden’s Interact Club set off on a service trip to Thailand. It was a ten-day journey that the girls, and the people they encountered, will never forget.

After arriving in Chiang Mai, the students travelled to the town of Mae Sariang to volunteer at the Rustic Pathways Children’s Home which is home to twenty-five Indigenous children. “Even though there was a language barrier, the students were so friendly and welcoming. We made friends immediately and were able to help them with their conversational English skills,” said Brianna O’Bree, Meriden’s Interact Club secretary.

The girls were scheduled to teach at a local primary school and their first taste of a Thai student’s life was to ride bicycles all the way to school. “It was absolutely amazing!” Brianna said. “We rode past freshly harvested rice fields and homes, and were greeted by almost everyone on the way. Initially, we were very nervous teaching. The language barrier with the Kindergarten students was particularly difficult. However, after our first lesson we had made new little friends and our excitement was growing by the minute.”

After three nights at the Children’s Home, the group travelled in the back of utility trucks to their next destination, Hill Tribe Village. The villagers were welcoming and generous, inviting the students to sleep in their homes.

The girls set to work to complete the building of a function room for the Hill Tribe villagers to use for wedding receptions, meetings and guest rooms. They covered the walls in bamboo and tiled the floor. They collected bamboo from deep inside the jungle and carried it on their shoulders to the village. After a few hammering mistakes, two days of manual labour, a lot of sweat, and the local rooster’s 2.00 am wake-up calls, the project was completed.

A detour on the journey back to the Children’s Home took the girls on a remarkable boat ride on the Salween River which borders Thailand and Burma.

The next day was the most difficult day of the journey as they bid farewell to their friends in the Children’s Home.

“We came to Thailand for an educational and fulfilling service trip, but we got much more. We made friendships, created memories and learnt many life experiences that will forever be treasured. Whilst it was very challenging, we have all learnt so much and have taken all these new skills into our daily routine back in Sydney,” Brianna said.