The Service component of our CAS trip had two main components, namely construction work and teaching English. These tasks presented different challenges to us and we were able to gain valuable experience and enjoy memorable times from them.
Construction work took place on a site not far away from the resort in which we resided. We were told that the buildings which we were working on would become a centre for education and day care for children with special learning needs. Also, several schools had already worked on the site prior to our arrival. We learned that this was due to the underprovision of resources by the government towards caring and educating these groups of children. This made our work all the more meaningful as we were contributing what little we could to help the local community.
There were three tasks for building the foundation of the buildings: mixing concrete, pouring concrete and moving gravel. We divided up into smaller teams for each of these tasks. For concrete, we had to fill buckets with sand and gravel from a small hill of those materials. Local workers would then pour those and water into a concrete mixer. Another team then passed buckets of concrete into pre-made molds to form the foundation. The buckets were then recycled and the cycle repeated. After the concrete dried, we had to move gravel. We were to fill buckets or wheelbarrows with gravel, again from small hills of them, and transport these to fill the spaces between the concrete to complete the foundation. The work not only worked us physically but mentally as well, as we sought to work more efficiently during each cycle. Our work was rewarded by rests under the shade and having snacks and drinks during breaks. On the final day of building, we were able to save enough time to play some football on a nearby pitch. It was a very enjoyable time.
Teaching English was a totally different but equally challenging task. We went to a local school to teach kids of about 10 years old some English words. We were broken into small groups and assigned a topic to teach, such as food, sports, or body parts. The staff at MRVR gave us some background information: these were not just kids, but kids of the ethnic minorities, another group which lacks attention from the government. Furthermore, English was essential if the children were to move up the social ladder. Without English, they would be restricted to low-paying jobs. Therefore, if these children could learn to use reasonable English, they would have more social mobility. After we understood this we all became more enthusiastic in preparing and teaching.
The night before we set out teaching, we prepared teaching materials in MRVR. Since the children had zero knowledge of English, we had to learn a few words in Thai so to communicate. We also prepared many drawings and large signs to let the children easily connect the images and the English words. When we actually met the children, we faced various problems including a lack of enthusiasm and communication difficulties. However, we were creative and flexible in devising different methods such as role-playing, games, and dramatic gestures to capture and retain the children’s attention. Afterwards, we played football and basketball with some of them, which made the occasion all the more memorable and exciting. We also donated some colour pencils to the school.
In conclusion, the Service part of the CAS trip was challenging and totally worthwhile. We were able to learn about the local situation and help improve it by our service. On the other hand, we developed new skills such as communicating without a shared language, adapting to unexpected situations, increasing efficiency through repeating the task, and so on. We also recognised the benefits of working collaboratively and showed commitment and perseverance throughout the two projects.