They set the intention, they planned the steps, they carried out the work, and the rewards were amazing. I’m humbled to have been a small part of this story. Let’s start from the very beginning.
A few months ago, Rotarian Cindy Johnson introduced me to a charming young teacher named Mrs. Loren. Mrs. Loren, who teaches a class of middle school children at American Pacific International School (APIS), had developed a program designed to teach the children social responsibility through community service. Having learned about my work with the Mae Tao Clinic, she asked me if I’d be willing to come to APIS and talk to their seventh and eighth graders about the clinic and the situation along the Thai / Burma border. I was delighted to accept but also a bit intimidated, because middle school children, at least in the United States, can be very challenging. As it turns out, the students are amazing young people. At first they were a bit shy, even reserved. However, as the short time allotted went by, they relaxed and allowed their inquisitive selves to engage in conversation and even a bit of banter. The students surprised me by bringing a list of prepare
d questions. These seventh and eighth graders wanted to know all about what life is like for children on the border. An hour and a half of questions and answers went by all too quickly, and I left feeling like I’d made some small contribution, which I didn’t realize until later was an understatement. After the class, Mrs. Loren and Ms. Jen (APIS English Language Acquistion teacher) shared with me their surprise at how I had managed to keep the interest of all the students, especially two who apparently are well known for their inattentiveness. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t my presentation skill, and it certainly wasn’t charisma. Clearly it was the material. I was talking about the Mae Tao Clinic, and my love for the people and the mission shone through! I went home feeling like I’d had a great day, but once again, I underestimated the effect. It wasn’t until a few days later, when I learned that the children had requested to start a fundraiser for the Mae Tao Clinic, that I truly understood the impact my talk had on them. They worked diligently and carried out a variety of responsibilities: they hosted a movie night, they sold snacks and drinks during their break time, they made posters to promote the event, they collected donated items from all the grades, and they sold “Hope Bands,” colorful band-aids which contained written message of hope. At the same time, Mrs. Muyasar, the school’s art teacher, helped the children create a beautiful 3 panel painting called the “The Tree of Hope.” All the students contributed to this communal work of art by individually designing a paper circle with a message of hope and gluing it to the tree. All this and more they presented to Chiang Mai International Rotary on 17 May. The money they raised was a very significant 15,000 baht, which has already been donated to the Child Protection Training Program. The “Tree of Life” will be presented to the Child Protection Department at Mae Tao Clinic.
CMIRC Members with the "Tree of Hope" Panel