In a time in which teenagers are commonly viewed as media-obsessed and self-centered, many expect to see them in malls and clubs, focused on clothes and games. Completely contrary to this image, 23 teenagers from NIST International School have been putting their hearts and minds into improving the quality of life for others who have never even seen a shopping mall. Since August 2013, these students have worked directly with the hill tribe village of Maeramit in Omgoi, Chiang Mai to develop the village and its people through social action.
This extensive project began as a part of the IB Diploma Programme curriculum, which encourages empathy, dialogue and advocacy through its progressive Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) component. Each element was present in the first step of the project. Due to its isolated location, reaching the impoverished village required a four-hour hike, followed by physical labor as a part of the project. Creativity was required in overcoming cultural barriers and communicating with the villagers about their needs, as well as possible solutions. Though the service aspect was simply intended to be the work carried out during the initial trip, it became much more.
Seeking to go beyond the core CAS programme, the students formed the Maraemit Development Group (MDG) after returning to NIST, seeing it as an opportunity to learn about life in rural Thailand and identify the primary developmental needs of the villagers in order to improve their quality of life. Unlike many service projects, this relationship has become more than a donation or visit. Since the first visit to Maeramit, when they worked alongside villagers to identify the community’s most pressing needs, the year 12 and 13 NIST students have returned twice.
The key to growing the MDG beyond the original intent was the adoption of an experiential learning approach based in the 5-stage model of service learning: investigation, preparation, action, reflection and demonstration. The immersive nature of the experience fostered a passion within the NIST students, driving them to accomplish what famed service learning educator Cathryn Berger Kaye referred to as “one of the best, if not THE best example of international service learning travel that I have ever…heard”.
During the most recent trip in June, the students completed several of the MDG’s goals, including the creation of a safe source of water, and bathrooms and toilets for eight families—none of which had ever existed previously. They also provided books and solar lamps that will allow the village children to read at night, another first for the community. Additional projects will continue to be carried out in the future, with many of the same students and newcomers as well. A journey that began over a year ago has developed and expanded into an unexpected, rewarding bond, a connection that is bringing positive change for both the students and the village of Maeramit.
To learn more about the ways in which the Maeramit Development Group has worked with the village through the 5-stage model of service learning, visit http://www.nist.ac.th/the-maeramit-development-group-service-learning-in-action.
The first and only full, not-for-profit IB World School in Thailand, NIST International School was established in 1992 with the guidance and support of the United Nations. The school now welcomes over 1,500 students of over 50 nationalities and provides all three International Baccalaureate programmes.
In addition to its rigorous academics, NIST provides students with an expansive World Languages Programme and more than 300 extra-curricular activity options. With its graduates attending the best universities in the world and going on to become community leaders, NIST International School has become recognized as one of Asia’s leading learning institutions.