Two very different sides of one coin

I recently went on a school camp like no other I have been on.

We took two classes of privileged students from an international school to another school in the middle of the jungle that couldn’t be any more different.

Yaowawit School was established to offer support, education and ultimately, a home, to children whose chances had been wiped out by the 2004 tsunami.  A charitable boarding school, Yaowawit is dependant on public donations and funding to keep its doors open, now offering over 110 places to children affected by all manner of things.

Having moved on from the post-tsunami support, most of the children living at Yaowawit have families who are unable to care for them properly be it due to financial difficulties, rural isolation, alcohol and drugs or crime.  Every child has his or her own story and each one tugs at a different heart string.  But these children don’t want your pity.  In fact, they don’t want for much at all.  It was interesting to see the children we had taken on camp make observations about the differences between themselves and the Yaowawit children; many of them didn’t understand why things were different but the difference itself was hard to ignore.

When our children were complaining about having to do morning exercise, or having to help out on the organic farm that serves as another source of income for the school, the Yaowawit children always had a smile on their face and never a bad word to say.

We were there for the end of term party of which the main event, and source of much excitement, was the grand raffle.  Typical prizes such as teddy bears and small toys were overshadowed by more modest prizes such as a new, soft towel and a toiletry set.  Those were what the children were most eager to have their name picked out for.  One of our children had the nerve (or I suppose, the naivity) to ask why the names of students from our school weren’t in the raffle draw – I just asked him to look around and think about it for a while.

Most of the students that we took on the camp live very privileged lives.  They have all the gadgets and gizmos they want, they live in beautiful homes and are lucky enough to come from a family that can afford to pay 250,000+ THB a year to go to school.  To put that in perspective, one year’s tuition at the international school I work at would pay for twelve and a half years at Yaowawit school, including boarding and food – that’s an entire school life for a child.  Insanity.

After the camp was over and the students had Sunday to reflect on things, we had a really positive discussion on Monday morning about the differences between the lives of the Yaowawit children and themselves.  Hopefully the children can begin to see that there are people living outside of their bubble who don’t have the same opportunities in life, and that they should appreciate how truly lucky they are.

I didn’t get any pictures of my own at Yaowawit as I wasn’t sure of the confidentiality around the boarding children, but feel free to head to their website where you can find out more information including how to sponsor a child or volunteer yourself.

Oh, and here is one of their adorable children, Su.