HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

The Flying Kakapo project at PTIS International School

The Northern School for the Blind receives help from ThailandFreunde

Let’s Grow Green

Grandma Cares program provides funds for needy students

The Flying Kakapo project at PTIS International School

By Paul Middleton

“In his book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins says ‘Not only has the kakapo forgotten how to fly, it has also forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly. Apparently, a worried kakapo will sometimes run up a tree and jump out of it, whereupon, it flies like a brick, and lands in a graceless heap on the ground,’” said Hunt Rettig, an artist-in-residence at PTIS International School, speaking about his latest project. “I want everyone to ask, in what ways are we similar to the Kakapo?”

Hunt Rettig came to the school with his wife and children for one semester while the Flying Kakapo project was in progress. His two daughters, Addy and Juna, attended classes at PTIS and enjoyed the change of scenery and culture, finding things here to be so different from their life in Aspen, Colorado, USA.

The Flying Kakapo is in essence a thirty-five feet long bamboo bird which is now suspended in a teak plantation near the Four Seasons Resort in Mae Rim. Such was the scope of the project that it took ten weeks from conception to completion, and three days and twelve men to get the bird up and suspended in the trees. Hunt jokes, “I figured it must have weighed about 450 pounds, and so big that someone could probably have used a ladder to live inside it!”

Despite the grand scale of the project, Rettig was able to call upon plenty of help to keep the project on track and for the most part, on schedule. Two Grade 12 students, Bank and Katy, were regularly on hand to help manufacture the bird, as well as to organise the forty extra students who turned out to help finish the bird in the heat of late April sun as part of the school’s Earth Day celebrations. “Katy and Bank were godsends. I think our time together became a relaxing escape for them from their hectic schedules - until I made them the generals in command of forty students,” Hunt said. It would appear that having a fun time and working in a relaxed atmosphere is very important to him as he went on to say, “If I had to give all of the students who helped a grade, I would have given them all 94%, just because I was hoping to have more water fights towards the end of the day.”

Hunt, usually an artist rather than a sculptor, is now back in his home town of Aspen, where he is working in his studio on much more familiar territory. “The bird was a one-off, but it taught me to continue to have fun thinking outside of the box. About 98% of the material Hunt used to make the bird was natural materials. “I’ve always known about the inherent value of bamboo, but now that I’ve manhandled it I have a new-found respect for it.”

Despite the relatively biodegradable nature of bamboo and the other materials used, Hunt has arranged for the bird to be removed once it begins to deteriorate. “We talked extensively about a plan to dismantle the bird – leaving no trace, recycling some of the materials and properly disposing the non-recyclables – and as I knew I would not be in Chiang Mai to oversee the process, I contacted the caretaker of the property. He assured me that once the bird started to fall down his work associates would make sure the bird would be removed properly.”

Three months later the bird is still flying high and, despite the heavy rains and local flooding, it still appears to be in very good shape – and still attracting curious glances from bemused passers-by.

The Northern School for the Blind receives help from ThailandFreunde

The Thailand members of Thailandfreunde e.V., the bilateral human rights, social and cultural organization visited the Northern School for the Blind and disabled children near Suan Dok Gate in Chiang Mai to donate 30,000 baht to the school on September 1, 2010.

Children from the Northern School for the Blind play soccer in their new gymnasium.

The director of the school himself accepted the donation from members of the group with a big smile and a big thank you.

He guided the group of Janet and Dennis Henry, Leo Figueroa, Rudolf and Phanna Langenhorst and Dirk and Wuttipong Weeber-Arayatumsopon personally through the buildings to review the results of previous donations from last year and earlier this year.

New kitchen equipment, a sports center for blind soccer was built and parts of the dining hall renovated and new chairs and tables have been installed. In the next month Thailandfreunde e.V. President for Thailand, Wuttipong Arayatumsopon told that the organization will install plaques around the school to show what the organization has donated.

The sports hall offers students the opprotunity to train in soccer. The Northern School for the blind won the silver medal in blind soccer at the ASEAN Paralympics which was a big successz for the school and for Thailand thanks to the generous support of Thailandfreude e. V.

In the last 18 months the school has received more than 300,000 baht in donations from Thailandfreunde.

On September 25 the organization celebrates its 5th anniversary at Chiang Mai’s Mercure Hotel, with many Thai stars planning to attend. 12 awards will be given to people from all over Thailand. Miss Thailand Universe 2008 Gavintra Pontijak, Thai Channel 7 Actress and Model Sirilapas “Mew” Kontrakarn and Hair artist and Schwarzkopf products ambassador Dr. Somsak Chalachol will be the top star guests at the event.

A Lanna fashion show, lucky draw, auction and silent auction, a best Lanna dress contest and a lot of surprises will wait for the guests.

A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the Northern School for the Blind in Chiang Mai but also to the Children Protection and Development Center in Pattaya.. However, we are sure we can make everybody happy, said Janet Henry, International coordinator of Thailandfreunde e.V. for Thailand. Thailandfreunde President Dirk Weeber Arayatumsopon expects to raise more than half a million baht on that night.

Tickets are available for 400 Baht. They include an international buffet and soft drinks. Tickets can be bought in the Mercure Hotel Chiang Mai, Fashion King at Kalare Night Bazar Chiang Mai, Siam Commercial Bank Central Kad Suan Kaew Chiang Mai, The Podology Center Chiang Mai San Sai and also in the Podology Center Bangkok Branch.

Members of the Northern School for the Blind
hand over the latest donation of 30,000 baht.

Let’s Grow Green

The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai brought over 60 colleagues to do their bit to combat the climate change at Mae Wang District in August under the campaign ‘Let’s Grow Green’. Together with local forest governors and a group of schoolchildren from Baan Lao Pa Fang primary school, over 1,500 saplings were planted.

This was also a great occasion to ‘implant’ the environmental awareness to the children, wishing them to continually grow more ‘green’ in their own community and neighborhood as they joined in fun and educational activities with hotel staff.

Grandma Cares program provides funds for needy students

Hope Watcharaprecha and the students and families in the Grandma Cares program at the Mother’s Day event held last month.

This past Mother’s Day Grandma Cares gave 3,000 baht to 30 children and their grandparents from Hang Dong, Chiang Mai Doi Saket, Lampun and San Sai at the Red Cross Station number 3. There was a meditation session, Mother’s Day Card creations for sponsors with prizes for the best cards, a first aid session from Red Cross Staff and a talk on living in harmony by Ajarn Somboon Suprasert. A mini-flea market free for all the families was also on hand so that the families could take some thing home from their day out with the Grandma Cares Partnership Program. Pictured here is Hope Watcharaprecha and the families at the Mother’s Day event.

Students receive their scholarships from Grandma Cares.