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‘Winter Dreams’ makes dreams come true for rural children

Chiang Mai – educational opportunities on the doorstep

‘Winter Dreams’ makes dreams come true for rural children

Rural children at the Budhasatann Centre receive their scholarships from representatives of the New Life Foundation.

George Powell
On Valentine’s Day, somewhat appropriately, representatives of the New Life Foundation met at the Budhasatann Centre on Thapae Road to hand out 23 scholarships, each worth 3,000 baht and 8 worth 5,000 baht to rural children, under the watchful eye of Khunying Bupphan Nimmanhaemindha, New Life’s president and founder.
The scholarships were the result of the amount raised at the Winter Dreams Charity Party, which took place last November, plus donations of 5,000 baht each from 8 overseas sponsors. The 31 scholarships were awarded as part of the ‘Grandma Cares Programme,’ initiated by the New Life Foundation for the benefit of rural children and their grandparents.


Chiang Mai – educational opportunities on the doorstep

Aubrey Ethans
The hills of the north appeal to even the most diehard city folk, as proven when two of Bangkok’s largest international schools recently sent student groups to Chiang Mai for cultural studies programmes. Prem Center hosted a staggering 162 year six students from Bangkok’s Patana School over a two-week period. The following week, these numbers were trumped by 182 eighth graders from the International School of Bangkok.

Students at the Panya Project mix mud with their feet to use as natural plaster on earthen walls.

Travelling by overnight train makes our ‘Jewel of the North’ an accessible learning destination. Whilst it’s no secret that backpackers travel through and out again, our community sometimes forgets the educational value that hill tribes, history and horticulture provides in the province.
Both Bangkok groups were seeking an urban-free experience for their students, beginning their adventure with activities at Prem’s Organic Farm. It’s not often that students are asked by adults to get dirty, but part of their experience was packing sticky mud mixed with rice husks into frames to create natural bricks. This experiential learning also required seed collection for green compost, transplanting and soil testing.
On the second day, Bangkok Patana focused on a Tung Yua Lahu village, studying their hill tribe lifestyle, agricultural methods and development. The Forest Restoration Research Unit also travelled to the Mae Taeng Valley to meet with the group to discuss fruits and seeds, as well as restoration planting methods.
The International School of Bangkok scattered their students across the north in order to offer a variety of outdoor adventures. Many students enjoyed some of the more famous destinations, whilst others went off the beaten track. Mae Taeng Valley’s Karen village Pa Kao Laam and the Lisu village Huay Nam Yard gracefully received guests for home stays, as did Mae Kampong, which is quickly becoming a popular destination thanks to Flight of the Gibbon’s presence. Zip lining, paired with a day of climbing with Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures, proved to be one of the most popular destinations.
No trip to the north would be complete without a visit to our national parks, the most famous, of course, being Doi Inthanon, which leads its visitors upwards to the highest peak in Thailand. However, many students preferred to lodge in the Sri Lanna National Park for a cycle ride through the Cholae Valley and a kayak ride on the pristine waters of the Mae Ngad Dam.
Lastly, one group focused on socially responsible programs within the area, travelling to the remote, yet serene, location of the Panya Project. Home to natural buildings and permaculture workshops, the project gave students a taste of a sustainable lifestyle away from the city. Whilst many initially cringed at the thought of eating vegetables straight off the plant, they were knee-deep in earthen plaster in no time. The day was preceded by a visit to the Elephant Nature Park, where students donated 8,000 baht in funds they had raised to sponsor three elephants.
Teachers choose Chiang Mai as their ‘camp week’ destination based on safety standards, the educational value of its cultural diversity and the vast range of activities that are on the city’s doorstep. It’s no wonder that this city is attracting the attention of some of the most prominent schools in Southeast Asia.