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Thailand Teaching Project 2003

Project Dates: May 2003 - March 2004

Youth Corps volunteer Ryan Foster teaches English to student

Youth Corps Volunteers in Thailand

by Joel Meeker

Five United Youth Corps volunteers have begun work as volunteer teachers at the Legacy Institute School in Chiang Mai Thailand. Ryan Foster, from the Jefferson Oregon congregation, Roberta Bauer from the Akron Ohio congregation, Jessa Moser from the Saint Louis, Missouri congregation, Aaron Greider from the Belleville Illinois congregation, and Heather Beyer from the Kansas City Missouri congregation left the United States on June 2nd for the flight to Bangkok via Tokyo. I accompanied our five volunteers on the trip to the Legacy School.

The Legacy Foundation was begun by Mr.Mrs. Leon Sexton in an effort to continue the work Mr. Herbert Armstrong began in Thailand in the 1970s. Mr. Sexton was intimately involved in the various Ambassador College and Foundation projects in Thailand through the years. The Legacy school was founded to give educational opportunities to young adults from the Karen and Katchin tribes in Burma and Thailand. These tribal groups often do not have the same opportunities as ethnic Burmese or Thais. Several of the students come from Sabbath-keeping families living in Burma. The students take classes in English, Speech, Computers, Agriculture and the Bible. Our volunteers are teaching some of these classes as well as participating in an outreach program to local Thai public schools.

After about 30 hours of travel we arrived in Bangkok at midnight on Tuesday June 3rd, with a twelve-hour time difference from the Midwest of the United States. After a short night in a hotel in Bangkok, we went on a whirlwind tour of Bangkok before flying on the Chiang Mai. In Bangkok we went first to the royal temple and palace complex at Wat Pra Kaew. From there we took a one-hour klong (Thai for canal) tour in a long-tailed boat. This gave us a glimps of how many residents of Bangkok live, where waterways are the streets of their neighborhoods. From the klongs we went to the Red Cross snake farm where venomous snakes are raised for their venom, which is used to make antivenins. The volunteers had the chance to see several kinds of cobras, to a cobra “milked” of its venom, and to have their photo taken with a friendly (non venomous) python around their necks!

After a late lunch it was time to head to the airport for the flight to Chiang Mai where we arrived in the evening. Mr. Sexton met us and drove the group to the Legacy campus about half an hour out of Chiang Mai. Thursday and Friday were orientation days, which included getting settled in to new lodgings, getting acquainted with the campus, hearing an overview of the history and goals of the foundation, and meetings with Bonnie Turner and Heidi Hanisko who have been teaching at the school for the past year. Curriculum and class planning began right away. On the Sabbath we had services together at the school, with an attendance of about 40 people. We also were able to have services together on the day of Pentecost, before I said goodbye to the new teachers and headed home.

I have since received an update from Ryan Foster, part of which I will include here:

“The students have a wide range of ability in English. A couple can speak and understand very little and others are pretty good at speaking and listening--especially the second-year students. They all speak at least two other languages well; some can understand half a dozen languages. I hope to learn at least some Thai and Burmese while I am here. Most of the students know Burmese and there is plenty of opportunity to practice Thai around here. Right now I can only say hello, goodbye, thanks, what's your name, and a few other things, and I can read about half of the Thai alphabet.

“I haven't really described this place much yet. I will try to give you a picture of what it looks like. The school in a small village called (I think) Baan Mae Sa. It is about a quarter of a mile off of the highway heading north out of Chiang Mai. We are maybe fifteen miles north of Chiang Mai, and two or three miles south of Mae Rim, which is a small town. Here in Baan Mae Sa there is an open air market where fruits, vegetables, eggs, and some other things are sold. There is also a small general store, several restaurants, some internet cafes, two copy shops (i.e. places with a photocopy machine), and some other small businesses. The school is on the corner of the main drag and one of the roads out to the highway. The school compound has a school building with a large classroom, a computer lab/classroom, and kitchen on the bottom. Upstairs is the girls dorm. Across the driveway is the boys dorm. Behind that is hut I am living in at the moment. Beyond the boys dorm and my hut are the boys' bath house and the teachers house. The teachers house has a large living room with two glass walls which we use as an office. There is a deck attached to the house, and on the deck is a small room we use as a classroom. Around all these buildings is a wall. There are some trees and plants in the compound too. I will try to send some pictures of the place sometime.

“Down the road a little way, in the middle of town, is the apartment building. It is a three-story white building with fifteen apartments. A church member rents one of the bottom apartments and the school rents two of the top apartments for the teachers. Out front there is parking for bikes and scooters and a spirit house. A spirit house is a little house on a pedestal for spirits. The idea is that if the demons (not necessarily bad in view of the Buddhists) have a separate place to live, then they won't come live in the main house. People leave little food and drink offerings on the stand for the spirits. It is quite ridiculous. There are a lot of these little houses around. Speaking of Buddhism, one thing that is kind of funny is seeing a bunch of teenage monks in the internet cafes playing computer games.

“Anyway, about a mile on down the road is farmland, and this is where the farmhouse is located. This is where the Sextons live and where the students grow crops organically.

“Well, that is about all I have to say for now except that there are a lot of bugs here, it is usually pretty warm, and I am learning to enjoy eating rice with every meal.”

I’m sure our Youth Corps volunteers would appreciate your prayers for God’s guidance and protection as they serve in this exciting project in Southeast Asia.

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