Teachers from RIS

The week before Songkran, starting 9th April  students from Ruamrudee International School (RIS) in Bangkok  travelled all the way from Bangkok to run a 4 days Thai language camp for some of the more reading and writing challenged children at Sarnelli House. The students are currently studying for an international degree and were of an average age of 18 years old. 

small group work
recognising the alphabet

After completing a pre test for basic literacy in Thai, children were selected from the 5 houses of Sarnelli to attend the camp.  There were about 24 children that were in exceptional need of help and many more than that turned up for the 3 days. As temperatures were in the mid 30s Celsius,  the teaching was held at Sarnelli House in the only 2 airconditioned rooms– the computer room and the chapel. Many of the students from Bangkok - 13 in all, had never been to Nongkhai or northeastern Thailand before and many would have been away travelling with their families at this time, as the Thai New Year is one of the biggest  holidays of the  year in Thailand.  However these students elected to take 5 days from their holidays and come and face the rigors of country life and give of their skills to about 30 children from Sarnelli House.

Team Red in front
Team black
sports day

Mornings started with exercises and songs and then the children were broken up into small groups and each teacher had 5 -6 in a group. They sat or lay on the floor and some of the children as old as 12 years were mixed in with 7 year olds and none of them knew their Thai alphabet completely. Other groups practiced reading and others practiced writing. The students showed great patience and a lot humour managing the children, many of them who have learning difficulties. After a break for lunch there were games in the afternoon. The children quickly formed a bond with these young Thai students and looked forward to their arrival every morning. On the last day a family sports day was held in Pi Si Tong on the big, dry oval next to the church. All the children and housemothers and volunteers attended and the morning was a great success with everyone divided up into 4 team colours and competing in games throughout the hot morning. Fr Bird and Brother Geng and a group of young seminarians ran the show, thought up the games and organized them and kept everyone on track.  With a lunch of sticky rice and BBQ pork in plastic bags,  everyone was given the afternoon off.  Red Team won!

Team colours Red, Black, Green and White
Traditonal Songkran blessing and goodbye

The same day at 4pm in Pi Si Tong on the makeshift stage set up that afternoon, the students put on a show of traditional Thai dancing and included some of the children they had been teaching in the show. Then all the children from the different houses were up on the stage strutting their stuff with the  volunteers and the staff. Amidst food, drink and the stereo blaring out music the evening ended at 8pm with some very tired but happy people heading home. The next day was the first day of Songkran and the students came for the final goodbye after having very generously added supplies and redesigned the computer room into a class room at Sarnelli House. Then it was off to Pi Si Tong for water throwing which the students readily joined in, and the final goodbye and consisted of the wrist tying ceremony to thank the students and teachers and bid them a fond farewell and a Happy Thai New Year.

Kate Introna

April 2012