Springwood students return from trip of a lifetime
Twenty-five of our sixth-formers enjoyed the adventure of a lifetime when they travelled to Thailand to care for rescued elephants and teach local school children about climate change.
Our students successfully completed the Thailand Global Citizenship Challenge – a two-week programme run by the Challenges Abroad organisation.
Flying to Bangkok, then onto Chiang Mai, the group spent their first week in Thailand working with pupils at Ban Kupuang (KP) School in Mae Sariang to teach them about climate change.
The Springwood students ran workshops based around STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) activities, to help raise the Thai pupils' awareness of climate change issues, and also assisted them with their English skills.
In addition, they took part in community clear ups and tree-planting projects alongside the children, to demonstrate the importance of a clean and safe environment and show how to off-set carbon footprints.
“The time spent at the local school proved a challenge, because of the language barrier,” said Jessica Cuss, one of the teachers leading the trip. “But they were so determined to share their knowledge, they persevered and were creative in their approach.
“The experience enabled our students to not only grow their confidence but team building skills too. Living outside of their own comforts with limited resources developed their resilience, and they have definitely become more globally aware.”
The second week of the trip found the group at Thailand’s famous Elephant Nature Park, 60km outside of Chiang Mai, where over 100 elephants share a home with other rescued animals, such as cats, dogs and buffaloes.
Our students helped care for the sanctuary’s residents, looking after their environment, preparing their food, feeding them, and even taking some for walks, while learning about both animal welfare and sustainable tourism.
“Thailand was a fantastic experience,” said student Zara Bek. “Learning about the impact of tourism on native animals, specifically elephants, was eye-opening. It taught me a lot about how we all have a role to play in preventing suffering.”
The trip also gave the young volunteers a taste of Thai culture, and included excursions to religious and historical sites, such as temples and Chiang Mai Old Town, as well as time to relax and plenty of opportunity to sample the local cuisine.
“I loved bonding with everyone through the exquisite food they cooked for us there,” said fellow student Katrina Sambaryte. “We were all tired and just needed food at the end of the day to boost our spirits – luckily it was wholesome food that also opened our eyes to a more sustainable vegan/vegetarian diet.
“The food united us all at the tables as we talked about the hard day’s work, reminding us all that we were a team working to achieve the same goal of sustainability.”
“It was a truly amazing and life-changing experience, getting to both observe and experience another culture so different to our own,” added fellow student Jessica McKenzie. “The trip helped me to develop adaptability, as well as to become more conscious of the decisions I make and the impacts they have on the wider world.
“It made me realise all the things we take for granted in the UK, such as our education system, free healthcare and clean water. It’s made me appreciate these things a lot more, realising how privileged we are in the UK.”