Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A Year in Service Learning

Every year, the Habitat for Humanity (H4H) Club in school organises an overnight build.  Now, there are usually a few builds during the year, but only the final one is an overnight build and the club members look forward to this.  Now, what I found unique in this school is that kids actually have to gain points to participate in builds, that's how much they want to help out.  Yes, you heard that right.  They don't get any points for volunteering, they have to earn points to volunteer.

So if they attend meetings regularly, they get points.  If they help out in bakesales (that help fund the builds), they get points.  If they've been on builds, they get points.  So priority for builds is given to those who are active members of the club.  A certain number of places is also given to those who have never been on a build, to be fair to new members.

Last year, in May, Brian was really fortunate that his counselor, seeing that he was new to school, decided to include him in the final H4H build for 2009/2010 school year in Korat.  He had such a great time and got to know more friends.  I blogged about it here.

From then on he was hooked.  Service learning is very much a part of every day life in ISB.  Brian is active in Green Panthers, H4H and also went on Operation Smile, but there are other clubs such as After the Wave (helping fund a school for children affected by the Thailand tsunami) and YKids (where Middle Schoolers host and play with groups of underprivileged children) etc..., the point is, if you want to, there's somewhere for you to contribute.

This past weekend, Brian was on his fourth H4H build, overnight in Korat again, the final build for this school year.  His year of service learning culminates tomorrow when he goes to Jakarta as an ISB delegate at the Global Issues Network Conference.  Twelve students are going to the conference, 8 high-schoolers and 4 middle-schoolers.  We are so grateful to the school for giving Brian this amazing opportunity to meet students from other countries and to listen to inspirational speakers.  Will blog about this when he gets back.

Based on whatever permission slips I still have, these were the trips that he went on over the past year.  I haven't blogged about many of his trips but I hope to do this in the coming posts, as a record of all the things he's done this year.   In between service learning trips, he also went to Brunei for a Math competition, and tribal trekking in Chiangmai for his grade trip.

8th-9th May 2010: Habitat for Humanity Overnight Build in Korat
29th Aug 2010: Tree-planting Eco-trip in ?? 
25th Sep 2010: Habitat for Humanity Day Build in Pathumthani
6th-9th Nov 2010: Operation Smile Mission in Mae Sot
12th-14th Nov 2010: Sustainable Living/Tree-Planting Eco-trip in Kaengkachan
11th Dec 2010: Habitat for Humanity Day Build in Pathumthani
7th-11th Feb 2011: Grade 8 trip, tribal trekking in Chiangmai
24th-27th Feb 2011: SEA Math Competition in Brunei
11th-13th Mar 2011: Elephant Sanctuary/Barge living Eco-trip Kanchanaburi
1st-3rd Apr 2011: Habitat for Humanity Overnight Build Korat
7th-10th Apr 2011: Global Issues Network Conference in Jakarta

It's been hectic to say the least, cos every weekend he's away, he has to catch up on homework, find time to make up quizzes and tests that he's missed.  But he'd be the first to say it's all been worth it.  The service learning culture in this school is just amazing, partly cos we're in Thailand I think, which provides opportunities for giving in a way not many countries can.  That said, not many schools here give kids at such a young age so many ways to give back.

Because service and giving is such a big part of learning in the school, and kids actually see their teachers walking the talk so to speak, I think this really makes the children feel empowered to take charge and take action.  For example, immediately after news of the devastating Tsunami in Japan, one of Brian's Facebook friends, a Japanese girl, posted on her status asking if friends were interested in fundraising and asking for ideas on how to do it.  Within a short time, these 13- and 14-year olds were coming up with ideas, all wanting to help and contribute.  Within a week, bakesales were organised, wrist bands were made and sold, paper cranes were folded with donations pledged, donation boxes placed around the school.  Hundreds of thousands of bahts was raised.    

The most amazing bit though must be the fact that this Japanese girl was new at the start of the school year.  She spoke no English when she first came, was very shy, and now, she's galvanising her friends to make a change.  She's blossomed so much.  I only witness this cos I happen to know her mom.  Her mom says she was not like this in Japan.  So I have to credit the school for this.

Cliched though it might sound, kids here are learning to be global citizens in every sense of the word.  Learning that they can make a difference.  Learning that the world doesn't just revolve around them.  That there are others out there who need their help.  I hope what Brian's learnt this past busy year stays with him always.  I believe it will.


monlim said...

Wow, that's a LOT of time away! I think it's awesome that Brian gets to go on these opportunities and feel the service mentality is really alive and well there, unlike the fakey, coerced-for-CCA-points mindset in SG.

These are the events Brian will look back fondly on. Truly inspiring!

Lilian said...

Yes, it really is a lot of time away. Eddie's making noise already, said Brian should stop going on so many trips :P

It can be disruptive I guess but as his math teacher said after I expressed concern about Brian missing lessons, "I am not worried at all about Brian missing class time. His MS activities are extremely important to do, and are part of a full ISB experience."

Anonymous said...

I amazed at what Brian has accomplished in such a short time. These are wonderful experiences for him and I am sure will help to shape what he will become. :)
(forgot my blogger pw :P)

Lilian said...

Hey Sandy, it's quite a lot of diverse experiences for not even a year huh? He's having so much fun while learning about about how other people actually live their lives. Hopefully, this makes him less of a self-absorbed teen for now, and like you said, shapes his being as an adult.